Council amends city code to allow up to five hens per property
Forest Lake is becoming feather-friendly.
In 2011, the City Council amended the city code to allow for the keeping of domestic pigeons. On Monday night, the council opened the city to urban chickens.
Also known as backyard chickens, these birds have flown the farmyard coop: The concept of raising chickens within city limits is growing quickly throughout the country.
“There’s quite the movement out there in urban areas regarding urban farming, sustainable food sources, things like that,” Community Development Director Doug Borglund told the council Monday night.
“One of the movements that’s going on in the metropolitan area, and has been for a few years now, is the idea of allowing backyard chickens, or ‘urban’ chickens, as a food source, as part of a way to gain access to organic foods.”
The requested city code amendment landed on the council’s desk following lengthy review by the planning commission. That group voted 6-1 to recommend the ordinance allowing the chickens, but that vote came after three meetings over a six-month period.
Chickens were previously allowed on properties with more than five acres. The new ordinance, approved 4-1 by the council, allows owners of smaller properties to keep up to five hens, with several conditions. The animals must be kept on a single-family property. Coops and pens must be enclosed, meet existing set-back requirements for accessory buildings and be located in a backyard. Applicants must pay a one-time $50 fee and are subject to inspection.
Though council members raised a few concerns, Borglund said he does not expect many feathers to be ruffled. In fact, he said, chicken ownership can have economical and educational value. It is not a hobby that people will take up on a whim and then abandon, he said.
Similarly, the city did not take up the matter without confidence that interest exists, Borglund said.
“This is a growing trend, a growing interest among our residents,” he said. “As a staff, we have heard from folks that live in the community that have interest in this topic.”
Councilman Mike Freer voted against the ordinance. He felt the number of chickens allowed should related to property size.