Chicken ordinance gaining momentum in Cloquet

Local residents held a meeting to discuss how to push the City Council to expand the areas where chickens are allowed.

Emily Tracy (left) speaks to a group of 10 Cloquet residents interested in expanding the area of the city where chickens are allowed. Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal

While others at Pinehurst Park in Cloquet played softball, basketball or tennis Tuesday, Aug. 25, a small group gathered under the pavilion to discuss civic action.

Cloquet residents Emily Tracy and Heather Brown organized a meeting to talk about changing an ordinance to expand the areas of the city where people are allowed to keep chickens.

Brown provided sample ordinances from other cities around Minnesota including Duluth, Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Ten people came to the meeting to show their support for expanding the ordinance, with Tracy saying she had seen support from many more in the community and momentum driving toward change of an issue that has come up at least two times in the past eight years.

Tracy spoke to the Cloquet City Council during the Aug. 18 meeting about possibly changing the ordinance to allow chickens in a larger portion of Cloquet. After a post on a Facebook page generated more than 500 responses, Tracy sent out a petition that quickly gained more than 1,000 signatures to change the current ordinance that allows chickens only in areas of Cloquet zoned farm residential.


“I was just blown away by how much support and encouragement people are giving me and the desire to have (chickens) in the area,” Tracy said. “I think nowadays people are starting to really understand the benefits of having them. With so many communities already allowing chickens within their city limits, we’re almost of an old-fashioned mindset that we don’t have them yet and there’s a lot of people that want that change.”

In April 2019, zoning administrator Al Cottingham proposed changing the ordinance to allow residents to keep up to five laying hens in the single-family residential (R1) or the suburban residential (SR) districts on lots that are at least a half-acre. During a council work session at the time, Cottingham estimated there were 100 R1 lots and 200 SR lots eligible to keep chickens under the revised plan. Most of the R1 lots eligible are south of Washington Avenue in Cloquet, and most of the SR lots are generally south of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College and south of Big Lake Road.

The proposed change didn’t garner much support from the council during a work session at the time and was never brought up for a vote. A less restrictive ordinance to allow chickens in larger parts of Cloquet also failed to garner enough support from the City Council in 2012.

“I know that it's been a hot topic and I know that it keeps resurfacing,” she told the council. “I believe that it will continue to do so, and I would just really appreciate your consideration in making some changes to the rule, and I'd be willing to help in any way, shape or form.”

Several city council members said they were interested in investigating the matter further.

“I’m in contact with a lot of people — I never realized there was this much support — that want this,” said Warren “Bun” Carlson, Ward 1 councilor. “I’ve had 15 to 20 emails and, unlike the mask ordinance where it was 50-50, these were all for it.”

Ward 2 Councilor Sheila Lamb said while she was “willing to entertain the idea” of making a change, she was also concerned about conflicts with other pet owners.

“I don’t want to see a dog or cat put down ... because they went after a chicken,” Lamb said. “I don’t want to see a homeowner sued because of that, so we would need to address that in there to protect pet owners.”


Ward 4 Councilor Kerry Kolodge said he thought it might be a good fit in Ward 1 or 5, but was concerned about the more densely populated areas of Cloquet in Wards 2, 3 and 4.

Ward 3 Councilor Chris Swanson also said he was willing to have the discussion about chickens again, despite potential conflicts among pet owners.

The council plans to discuss a potential change to the ordinance during its work session beginning at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 1.

A group of Cloquet residents met at Pinehurst Park to discuss changing an ordinance that would allow chickens in a larger part of the city Tuesday, Aug. 25. (Pine Journal file photo)

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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