COLUMBIA – A group of Columbia residents are hoping they will soon be allowed to raise their own chickens within city limits and are preparing for a Columbia City Council discussion in an effort to keep the issue alive.
Advocates hope to see Columbia join the growing number of cities across the country that allow chickens within city limits. They continue to gather signatures supporting an ordinance and plan to attend the council's dinner before its meeting Monday night.
Although there is no public comment period during the dinner, advocates hope their presence will show support for a change in chicken laws.
Public Health Director Stephanie Browning will be present at the dinner to discuss what the Columbia Board of Health considered while reviewing the urban chicken issue. A draft ordinance outlining new rules for raising chickens in the city was voted down when it came before the Board of Health last month, so it will not be sending a recommendation to the council.
Board of Health member Lynelle Phillips said the board could not reach a consensus on a couple of issues, especially whether to require neighbor permission for chicken ownership.
It is unclear which stipulations would be included if chickens are allowed inside city limits. First Ward Councilman Paul Sturtz said city staff will look at the information the Board of Health used when preparing its draft ordinance as well as the board’s discussions.
Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said she hoped the council would receive input from former Board of Health Chairman David Sohl, who worked on the recommended ordinance before his term on the board ended.
Hoppe said she hopes to be able to raise a few chickens herself and is generally supportive of efforts to legalize the raising of chickens if the details can be worked out.
Before the pre-meeting dinner, urban chicken supporters in Columbia will try to rally support for allowing hens inside the city.
Columbia resident Mary Stilwell, an advocate of allowing chickens in the city, said the Columbia Urban Hen Initiative has been gathering signatures on a petition it hopes to present to the council.
“It was never meant to be an official document,” Stilwell said of the petition. “Our purpose is to show widespread support for an urban hen law.”
Stilwell said the petition has about 300 signatures, but they are hoping to get closer to 450.
Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill said that though he is not in a position to support a change in laws governing chickens, “if you have enough people that support it and say it’s a good idea, it might be a valid request.”
Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said he is worried that allowing chickens inside the city will present difficulties for animal control and cause problems in neighborhood relationships.
Assistant City Manager Tony St. Romaine said if the council decides to move forward following its discussion, it can direct city staff to prepare a draft ordinance, and details such as requiring neighbor consent or whether to allow roosters will be discussed.
Adam Saunders, director of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, said he hopes to rally supporters to speak if a public comment hearing is held in the future.
In preparation for the possibility that the council will consider the chicken issue, the Columbia Urban Hen Initiative is encouraging supporters to contact their representatives.