RICHMOND, Va. —
Advocates for loosening restrictions on owning chickens in the city saw their cause take a small step forward Tuesday afternoon, when a City Council committee recommended a comprehensive study of Richmond’s regulations.
The council’s Land use, Housing and Transportation Committee advanced a resolution requesting the city chief administrative officer study the ordinances and regulations governing the “raising, maintenance and ownership of chickens and other poultry.” the resolution also requests recommendations for changes to the existing ordinances and cost estimates for administering permits. the full council will consider the resolution, which would require a report within 30 days, at Monday’s meeting.
Present city code bars chicken ownership on less than 1.15 acres and says fowl must be securely fenced and kept 500 feet from any house or other neighboring residential building. Zoning regulations on single-family lots say pens for domestic animals must be 200 feet from all property lines. This effectively prohibits keeping chickens in most of the city, chicken advocates say.
“There are already a lot of chickens out there in our city and they aren’t being noticed because they aren’t a nuisance,” said Valerie West, a member of the local Chickunz group, which has lobbied the council frequently over the past several months on the issue.
West said her group, part of a nationwide trend toward more sustainable eating that places a focus on knowing where food comes from, has surged in popularity over the past year on the social networking site Facebook.
The Chickunz group is pushing for rules that allow individuals to own up to eight hens but no roosters.
Richard Hammack, 51, who lives in the Fan, said he was first exposed to backyard hens during a trip to Raleigh, N.C., one of many U.S. cities that have eased restrictions on keeping chickens in urban areas.
“I got it in my head that would be a great thing to do,” he said, adding that his two young daughters pressed him to get the chickens.
Hammack kept three chickens in his yard unbeknownst to his neighbors until one happened to be on a ladder overlooking his coops. That neighbor called Animal Care and Control.
Hammack wound up sending his birds to a “chicken safe house,” he said.
“I’m hoping the law will change and we’ll get our chickens back,” Hammack said.
Not everyone at Tuesday’s meeting was in favor of allowing more residents to own chickens.
“If we want to have chickens, why not move to the country? Don’t bring them to the city,” said Eugene Price, a 70-year-old auto shop owner who lives in Ginter Park.
He questioned proponents’ claims that chickens would not create odor problems and said if more city residents were aware of the push to loosen the restrictions, there would be more opposition. he added that the chickens would be easy targets for thieves.
West said a chicken produces about an ounce and a half of waste a day, compared with 12 ounces a day produced by a 40-pound dog.