David Johnston-Primary 2018

BD Commission discusses allowing backyard chickens within city

In Local, News by Lee Bratcher

By Lee Bratcher / OC Monitor

BEAVER DAM, Ky. — The Beaver Dam City Commission discussed the possibility of allowing backyards chickens within city limits, before tabling the matter to further research the possibility.

Monday night, Beaver Dam citizen, Jamie Goodman, requested a spot on the city commission’s meeting agenda to speak about amending the city’s nuisance ordinance to allow residents within the city limits to own “backyard chickens.”

Goodman checked the city’s animal ordinance online before purchasing his chickens, but he didn’t see anything in the ordinance about owning chickens. Goodman purchased six chickens and built a chicken coop in his backyard. He later found out about the city’s nuisance ordinance, which contained language about owning chickens within the city limits.

The city’s nuisance ordinance states, “The keeping of any farm or non-domesticated animal within the city limits is prohibited. Non-domesticated animals shall be any animal not commonly known or presented as pets either inside or outside the owner’s personal dwelling. Any domesticated animal kept as a pet outside the owner’s home shall be kept on a leash or within a pen at all times. Any domesticated animal kept as a pet inside the owner’s home has to be kept on a leash when allowed outside the dwelling.”

Goodman came prepared to Monday’s meeting, as he had a packet of material for the commission to look over, including uses of the hens, photos of his chicken coop, guidelines to follow if it were legal to own hens, etc.

Goodman recommended owning only hens and no roosters. Owners should have a portable coop to be moved around the yard so chickens have fresh grass to eat every couple of weeks. To keep the odor down, Goodman recommended putting lime, then straw, down on the inside of his coop.

Goodman believed there were many benefits of owning chickens, including fresh eggs and providing children a lesson on where people get their food. He also spoke with several of his neighbors who didn’t mind his backyard chickens.

Goodman asked the city commission to look over the material he provided and think about allowing city residents to own chickens.

“I have had other residents ask me about it and wanting to have backyard chickens,” Commissioner Sandy Robinson said.

“And I’ve had a bunch asking me to stop it,” Mayor Paul Sandefur said. Sandefur went on to say he spoke with three people in Goodman’s neighborhood who opposed allowing backyard chickens.

“It’s very common in large cities, like Louisville and Franklin, Tennessee. I know we’re not a large city, but…” Robinson said.

Last year, the city commission gave Beaver Dam Elementary a special exemption to have a portable chicken coop on school grounds, but the school isn’t in a residential area. The school agreed to only house hens in the coop and would have no rooster.

Sandefur said residents he spoke with were afraid of what may come next if chickens were allowed to be kept within city limits.

“Some I have spoken with are concerned if (the city) starts with chickens, they’ll be all over town,” Sandefur said. “And they’re saying, ‘What’s next? You’ve got a pet goat, you want to have?’ Where’s the stopping point?”

“I’ve had people out in the community express to me, ‘I cannot believe that Beaver Dam won’t allow you to have chickens,’ from other very nice neighborhoods,” Robinson said.

Commissioner Charles Patton weighed in with his thoughts.

“Me being the oldest one here, I remember when we had (backyard chickens) and it was a mess,” Patton said. “It depends on who has them and who is going to police it. I’ll I have to think on this before I do anything with it.”

“I think a license fee wouldn’t be unfair and that way you’d know who owned (backyard chickens),” Robinson said.

“But that just creates another layer of paperwork and the people who don’t get the permit are the ones you’ll have with problem with,” Sandefur replied.

“I don’t see any problem with it, as long as it’s regulated as far as the conditions (the chickens) are kept in and the number (of chickens owned),” Commissioner Keith Dale said. “We don’t need any massive chicken farms.”

Commissioner Kevin Davis was concerned about the many changes needed to the ordinance.

“We’d have to change the ordinance, which means we’d have to change the rules for the ordinance,” Davis said. “It’s not impossible to do, but I’m like Charles (Patton), I just don’t know that I’m ready right now to make a decision.”

City Attorney A.V. Conway II warned the city commission if it decided to amend the ordinance and allow backyard chickens within the city limits, the amendment would need to be very clear and specific.

Robinson recommended the commission research ordinances of other cities and see how those cities deal with backyard chickens.

In the end, the city commission decided to table the matter until more research can be done.

Two days after the meeting, Goodman said he was dropping the matter, selling his chickens and going to “try to relocate in the future.” Goodman’s reason for abandoning his cause was due to differences with his neighbors.

Photo of Jamie Goodman’s backyard chicken coop. (Photo courtesy of Jamie Goodman)

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