By Examiner Media Staff
A proposed law in Kent would require homeowners to adhere to a new set of guidelines prior to sheltering domestic chickens in their backyard.
As the desire grows for local homeowners to harbor chickens for their own personal food source, Kent lawmakers are looking to amend a section of the town code to place regulations on chicken and hen upkeep in residential neighborhoods. Officials assert that improper maintenance can result in unsafe and unsanitary conditions that would ultimately become a nuisance to nearby properties.
“I certainly don’t want to discourage people from having backyard chickens,” said Councilman Chris Ruthven at the Feb. 4 Kent Town Board meeting. “They’re personally not for me, but I understand that people want them and they’re a nice hobby to have.”
Since the Feb. 4 meeting, changes have been made to the proposed law that will be discussed at the board’s Feb. 18 meeting, including allowing guinea fowl on residential properties.
People do have guinea fowl and they have them for multiple reasons, said Ruthven. “It’s one of the ways of controlling ticks; people get them just for that reason,” he said. “They lay eggs and people eat the eggs from them, too.”
Additional changes include permitting six hens per half-acre property, and maxing out at 24 hens per household, opposed to the original 15 proposed. Also, no hens would be allowed on properties smaller than one-half-acre.
If the law goes into effect, hens must be kept in a fully enclosed coop or run that provides a minimum of 2 square feet per hen. Hens would be required to stay in the coop or run if not located in a yard with an at least 5-foot fence surrounding the property, prohibiting hens from running at large.
If the yard is fenced in, hens would be authorized to “supervised exercise” in the rear of the property.
Homeowners would also be limited to no more than one coop or run on a parcel with a design that provides ventilation and shade for hens and protection from inclement weather, predators, wild birds and rodents. Additionally, a coop and run could be located at least 25 feet from the property line.
Furthermore, all feed would need to be kept in rodent-proof containers. Coops and runs would also have to be kept clean, dry and in sanitary conditions, with animal waste, uneaten and discarded food, and feathers removed at least once a week, according to the proposal.
Roosters are also prohibited.
“There are some who have chickens in the park district,” Building Inspector Bill Waters told lawmakers. “Nobody really cares about the chickens until you get a rooster, then people get real concerned about it.”
Waters expressed concern about the proposed law, alluding that complaints could arise in the Lake Carmel area with houses in close proximity to one another.
Prior to breeding, raising, harboring or maintaining hens within town limits, a permit must be issued by the Code Enforcement Office and renewed every three years. Violators could have their permits revoked and face an up to $250 fine or jail time.
However, any coops or runs existing prior to the law’s passage would have one year to comply with the required rules and regulations. The current provision would not apply to properties located within a state-certified agricultural district.
The proposed law is scheduled to be discussed as a workshop item during the Tuesday, Feb. 18 Kent Town Board meeting at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.