City Council passes ordinance allowing urban hens

Monday, February 1, 2010 | 11:10 p.m. CST; updated 12:35 a.m. CST, Tuesday, February 2, 2010
Ellen Thomas smiles after the Columbia City Council voted to change the city ordinance governing the ownership of chickens, a change she spoke in favor of earlier in the evening on Monday.

COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council approved an ordinance that amends the city code to allow residents to keep chickens in their backyard.

The ordinance allows residents to keep six hens — no roosters — per tract, doesn't require a permit or neighbor approval and allows people to keep hens for only noncommercial purposes.

The council asked Stephanie Browning, director of the Health Department, to draft an ordinance after the Board of Health  did not vote to recommend a proposed ordinance to the council at their Sept. 10, 2009 meeting.

Browning said she based her ordinance draft on research she’d gathered from other communities that have passed “urban chicken” ordinances.

“If the goal is fresh eggs to feed your family, six (hens) should be sufficient,” Browning said.

Realtors spoke out against the ordinance. They were concerned that urban hens would lower property values.

Carol Van Gorp, CEO of the Columbia Board of Realtors, said she had an overwhelming response from the 500 realtors she represents against the ordinance. Van Gorp said she’d sent out two surveys and received about a 40 percent response. Of those who responded, Van Gorp said 95 percent were “highly against” urban hens.

Dave Denton, a realtor in Columbia, said he’d seen property rates drop in the last two months and that it was not a good time to impact property values.

“I doubt most of you know the sensitivity of the sale,” he said.

Van Gorp also questioned how many of the supporters were homeowners.

This prompted a response from supporter Jill Lucht who came to the podium and asked all homeowners who supported the ordinance to stand. A large portion of the audience stood.

Supporter John Nichols countered the argument that hens would reduce property values, saying he would be looking to buy a house in a neighborhood that does allow chickens.

Ann Koenig, a mother of two, supported the ordinance not only because of the local food aspect, she said, but also because her children look forward to raising chickens.

Koenig discussed the learning process of selecting breeds, designing a coop and building it as a family.

"It seems just priceless," Koenig said.

Adam Saunders, with the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture, spoke in support of the local food movement in Columbia.

"There are many benefits these children will receive by seeing where their food comes from," Saunders said.

Before passing the ordinance, the council voted to make two amendments to it.

Sturdy wooden fencing was added to the list of materials to construct hen houses. The original proposed ordinance specified that the hen houses be made only of sturdy wire fencing.

Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said she thought the wooden fencing was an acceptable material and it might help keep chickens out of the sight of barking dogs.

The council also amended the ordinance so that a dog or cat that kills a chicken outside of a coop would not be considered vicious or aggressive for that reason alone. The original ordinance stated they would not be considered vicious or aggressive for killing a hen alone if it was off the owner’s property.

After over more than two hours of public comment and council discussion, the ordinance passed in a 4-3 vote, with Second Ward Councilman Jason Thornhill, Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade and Fifth Ward Councilwoman Lauren Nauser dissenting.

The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture will host classes for introductions to raising urban hens at 7 p.m. Feb. 17 and at 2 p.m. Feb. 20. Its Web site will be updated with locations.

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Laura Arnold February 2, 2010 | 9:21 a.m.

I hope this means that the rooster my next-door neighbor has will stop crowing at 4 AM.

(Report Comment)
Larry Bossaller February 2, 2010 | 9:39 a.m.

This was one of the crazy ordinances I have even see. Now Columbia will be known as the "Chicken City" which is not good. We need some CHANGE in the City Government!!!

(Report Comment)
Trina Brunk February 2, 2010 | 9:52 a.m.

This is fantastic news. what an awesome opportunity to show our kids where their food comes from.

(Report Comment)
Richard Green February 2, 2010 | 9:56 a.m.

This is the stupidest ordinance our City Council has ever discussed. I am very disappointed in our Mayor and this is a great reason we need a change in the third ward. If people want chickens, go to the country. That is why we have a difference in City and Country living.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking February 2, 2010 | 11:02 a.m.

Larry Bossaller wrote:

"Now Columbia will be known as the "Chicken City" which is not good."

Actually dozens of cities legalized chickens before we did.

Richard Green wrote:

"This is the stupidest ordinance our City Council has ever discussed."

You'll never notice.

People on my street and nearby have had chickens off and on for decades. No one complained - in fact, many people were unaware that there actually were any. The fears of the chicken haters are largely unfounded.


(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2010 | 11:10 a.m.

("Trina Brunk February 2, 2010 | 9:52 a.m.
This is fantastic news. what an awesome opportunity to show our kids where their food comes from.")

Ya think? What about the young-uns who'll never ever eat an egg again, after witnessing it being pushed out of the nether zone of these fine feathered cluckers?

If you really want to show your kids where their food comes from, take them to a slaughterhouse, a petting zoo or a nearby farm. Better yet, get a video from the library or sit down with your child to them from a nicely illustrated book.

I've never owned a chicken farm, a pig farm or a victory garden and I know exactly where my food comes from....Gerbes on Nifong...and I prefer it that way.

When these chicken coops become the problem I anticipate, I hope our new mayor removes this ordinance, which has been passed thanks to a few of our town's most vocal, adamant egg-headed naturalists.
Let the feathers fly!

(Report Comment)
Sapphire Blue February 2, 2010 | 12:17 p.m.

"What about the young-uns who'll never ever eat an egg again, after witnessing it being pushed out of the nether zone of these fine feathered cluckers?"

My kids had no problem with it. They also don't have a problem with watching a deer being skinned, gutted, processed, cooked and put on their plate.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2010 | 1:27 p.m.

("Larry Bossaller:
This was one of the crazy ordinances I have even see. Now Columbia will be known as the "Chicken City" which is not good. We need some CHANGE in the City Government!!!")

Chickens are coming home to roost...

(Report Comment)
Mahree Skala February 2, 2010 | 2:08 p.m.

Springfield, Independence and some other cities have allowed chickens for a long time, and none of them is known as the chicken city. Take a deep breath everyone--how many people do you think are actually going to get some chickens? No roosters allowed, only 6 hens, and if it is against your subdivision covenants you can't do it. Why is this such a big deal? If my neighbor wants them, fine.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2010 | 2:19 p.m.

("Why is this such a big deal? If my neighbor wants them, fine.")

I'm sorry, Ms. Skala, but I have no vested interest in what my neighbor wants.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 2, 2010 | 3:20 p.m.

That's right Ray, but you also have no right to tell your neighbor how to live their life as long as it does not impact yours.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2010 | 3:45 p.m.

("John Schultz says:
That's right Ray, but you also have no right to tell your neighbor how to live their life as long as it does not impact yours.")

Define impact.
[And remember, you're addressing the 2009 second place booby prize winner for the most irreverent and irrelevant posts on the Missourian.
The greatest achievement I'll probably ever attain.]

(Report Comment)
Dale Jones February 2, 2010 | 4:26 p.m.

Ms. Shala,...your comments have convinced me NOT to vote for your husband. I guess if my neighbor wants to grow pot, that' ok. Its is a big deal and if you don't understand the situation, its scary. Tell me how many people want chickens is not a intelligent statement..that's not the issue...the issue people can if they want and I might have to live with the smell, noise, spreading of disease, and not being able to sell my home. I am not buying a home if some neighbor has chicken ***** all along the yard. Please go get some help along with the rest of the City Council who voted for this stupid ordinance. Eggs and chicken doesn't cost that much at a store compared to the rest of this department, police issues and etc cost. What a stupid decision.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 2, 2010 | 4:27 p.m.

If you don't hear the chickens while you're indoors or smell them while you're outdoors?

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2010 | 4:41 p.m.

This summer, like when it's around 90+ degrees, I'm going to save some flushing water costs and erect me an outhouse in my backyard.
That's because mine and the chickens' don't stink and neither of us make any noise when we do our business.
(That's like almost 200 characters for 2010. Woo Hoo!)

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 2, 2010 | 5:13 p.m.

Well Dale, that's solid electoral advice right there. Don't vote for the spouse of someone who says something you don't agree with AND get their last name wrong as well.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 2, 2010 | 5:57 p.m.

Pay no attention to that poster behind the curtain.
Dale's probably just a shill for the seat's challenger.

(Report Comment)
Matt Dreier February 3, 2010 | 1:40 p.m.

I live next door to a family with five dogs. These dogs provide nothing but obnoxious barking and a few crap piles in the yard.

I would GLADLY exchange my dog neighbor for a neighbor who raised chickens and the fresh eggs those chickens would provide...I just hope I would be lucky enough to have a neighbor who shared!

For those worried about property values - check out Berkeley, California, where urban chicken coops are quite popular, even in 'high-class' neighborhoods. And good luck buying a house anywhere in Berkeley for less than a half-million.

(Report Comment)
Carloyn Shue February 7, 2010 | 6:28 p.m.

I've got a neighborhood chicken dilema. We live in a rural location in the panhandle of WV. While I would call this the "country", it is still only 20 minutes from the city. The four homes in our subdivision are all on 1 acre lots with at least 3 bdrm, 2 bath, 1,900 fin. sq. feet and were listed between 295,000 and 375,000 during the housing boom. We had a covenant that went defunct when the builder went bankrupt right after the sale of our homes. One of our neighbors decided to get chickens a couple of years ago. At first it was just a few chickens. At this point the coop was bright, located in a very visible spot,the rooster crowed all day and was loud; but we all tolerated this. Last year they decided to upgrade to 20 chickens (including 3 roosters.) This meant an upgrade in the coop with room to roam. Now the enclosure and coop spans the length of their yard right up to our property line. It is covered with bird netting that had to be installed because the chickens were getting out and wandering into everyone's yard. The netting drapes and sags. It is the first thing you see when you drive into our subdivision. We otherwise really like these people but are a little angry about the chickens. The other neighbors are even angrier than we are. I was sort of hoping one of them would say something but they have not. Now one of these "angrier" neighbors is forced to sell their home (due to health reasons)and very concerned about the resale. There have been several foreclosures in the area. Does anyone know if this sort of thing would really impact their resale and where I might find any information to prove this if it is true? Also, was wondering if people think that my chicken-owning neighbors should be confronted and if so should we be the ones to do it or should we ask the "angrier" neighbors to do so. Frankly, I'm a little conflicted about this since I am sort of a libertarian and all about people having freedom with their property. I just think there should be a balance struck between that freedom and the consideration of other's investments. I appreciate people that are self-sufficient and love delicious eggs from free range chickens; but we are already taking a bath in these houses due to the economy. I guess I resent that chickens might make this worse.


Miffed About Chickens

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 7, 2010 | 10:46 p.m.

Dear Miffed:
If you can hear the chickens cluck, "Live free range or die!" they may very well be Libertarian Langshans.
If this is the case, it is most likely that they have already pecked their way through Thomas Paine's "Common Sense."
If they're Rhode Island Reds, they might be rich enough to buy your house, at any price, as long as you give them a tax break.
On the other hand, if they are Dorking Dems, feathers will fly if you even insinuate that it will probably take you longer to find a buyer for your property and that any potential buyer will probably offer you less, based on this cooped up situation.
(My advise is to use your own common sense.)
Oh, and if some guy who looks like Elmer Fudd wants to buy your property, raise your asking price to the limit. He will think he's getting a bargain no matter what, just to be close to hunting grounds and good eats.
(Chicken season is right between rabbit season and duck season.)
I've been called corninsh before, but I hope you catch by drift.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz February 7, 2010 | 10:57 p.m.

I'm not a lawyer (thankfully, as I often say) but I don't think a covenant just goes away because a builder goes bankrupt. If the chicken owners signed a covenant, they are still beholden to it, but enforcing it will be fun as always.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance February 8, 2010 | 12:20 a.m.

Ms. Skala.

Dale is apparently a Kespohl supporter and since Kespohl has no real experience in city matters and can't even keep criminals out of his own rental units, you have hacks like Dale make a mountain out of a molehill. His feigned outrage is just an attempt to convince voters that a responsive and accessible city government is not as important as chickens. It is no secret that the Chamber of Commerce despises Skala because he won't allow shady developers and business owners to continue to be subsidized by Columbia citizens. Kespohl wants to go back to the days of unfetted development and have the city subsidize surveillance cameras for an elite few instead of hiring policeman.

(Report Comment)
Marvin Megee February 15, 2010 | 6:32 a.m.

Any realtor who is concerned that this ordinance might hurt residentual sales can call me. I'll be happy to tell them how to sell a house that has hens next door.

I'd like to encourage everone to learn more about Austin, Texas' "Funky Chicken Coop Tour" this summer.

Also, Backyard Poultry Magazine is a great resource for those interested in owning hens as well as those who fear that their neighbor's hens will lower property values.

As for me, when my neighbor gets hens, I am raising the asking price on our home $2500. My own ignorance has cost me money in the past... it's not going to happen this time.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro February 15, 2010 | 9:41 a.m.

@Marvin Megee:
1. I can't call you because this is the first time you ever posted something on the Missourian comment section and you failed to list your phone number. You are also not listed in the Columbia area phone book.
2. While I am certain there are chicken enthusiasts across our great nation and I do not belittle you, (or even chicken little you), for loving chickens, (everyone's entitled to a hobby), no surprise there are magazines which market to and chicken feed into the desires of such eggcentrics.
3. I live in a subdivision which is quite country-like, having a creek and woods buffering the back yards, and yet the rules excludes having sheds for lawnmowers and bicycles, let alone chicken coops. (These were smart developers, at least that's what my neighbors and I think.) Our property values are hopefully protected, sans coops.
4. With a lame duck mayor, Ms. Hoppe, Mr. Sturtz and Mr. Skala voting for this ordinance and those who will find new work educating, encouraging and cashing in on this potentially new local craze,I would suspect that the only saving grace in all of this is that 3 of our 7 council representatives voted against the ordinance and that Mr. Skala conveyed that this "coop de bill" could be reevaluated after a year and be rescinded if it's more trouble then it's worth.
5. Unless a home seeker is a chicken lover, the curb appeal of neighborhoods with cluckers in the midst will make it harder to quickly sell those homes at a premium.
4. Many salesmen, Mr. Megee, have been known to have the ability to sell a pig in a poke.

("Chicken Busters Mike chases feral chickens off the streets of Miami, Florida.")

(Report Comment)

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