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Backyard Chicken Ordinance Revision Approved

Published on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 | 3:34 am

Chuckles broke out around the City Council chambers as a backyard chicken ordinance revision gained unanimous support on Monday evening.

“We have to note that we’re amending our fowl ordinance on Thanksgiving week,” Councilmember Steve Madison said.

The City Council approved a revision to the existing chicken ordinance that will allow residents to place a chicken coop 35 feet from a neighboring dwelling.

The previous ordinance required chickens be kept 50 feet from a property or street line and 100 feet from any dwelling. The limit was and continues to be a maximum of ten chickens per household.

Activists in a group called CLUCKinPasadena, as well as backyard farmers and organizations promoting sustainable living have been working for the past year to change the ordinance and allow more people in Pasadena to house chickens.

“I’m overwhelmed, I know that many people across the country have been fighting for exemptions to allow back yard chickens. I’ve already been fighting for a year and I was prepared for another year but I’m thrilled it passed tonight. Now my girls can come out from under the radar and declare their citizenship,” Cynthia Frederick said.

Frederick and several others spoke about the numerous benefits associated with chickens, not to mention the “chicken theatre” many chicken lovers admitted to enjoying.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am to talk to you about chickens. We also watch chicken TV, we call it chick theatre at our house, they provide a lot of companionship, they are our pets,” Kristen Fergusson said.

Chickens help fertilize the ground, eat scraps, possibly reduce amount of waste by half, provide easy access to a healthy source of protein, and even help their owners have a healthier lifestyle by giving the owners a reason to get off the couch and exercise while taking care of the chickens.

While staff had proposed a registration and registration fee for chicken owners, Councilmember Victor Gordo vetoed the fee, at least for now, to allow owners who already have chickens an incentive to register. According to Dr. Eric Walsh, the new registration will mainly serve as an educational tool to educate the chicken owners about how to properly maintain chickens.

Gordo made another amendment, “I do think the 35 feet from a dwelling is a bit restrictive. I would suggest changing it to the dwelling house or structure of a neighbor so that were giving the chicken owners maximum flexibility. I want to make sure were not artificially constraining the owner from finding the best location on their property.”

With Gordo’s revision, residents will be able to place the chicken coop anywhere in the backyard without restrictions on how close the coop is to the house. Dr. Eric Walsh commented afterward that the group got even more than they were asking for.

“You got even more than you asked for, you didn’t have a fee that we didn’t want to impose any way and you have no restrictions in your back yard,” Dr. Walsh said to the activists.

The main concerns about allowing more chickens are that the chickens could attract coyotes, hawks and raccoons into the city, odor and fly complaints, and noise complaints. However, Chris Cunningham said during his public comment that a chicken’s squabble is more quiet human conversation.

“To me this was not the most pressing policy issue of the day, but for some folks in our community it is important. I was agnostic about this at the committee level, but I’m prepared to support it,” Madison said before the vote.

Sonali Kollhatkar does backyard vegetable gardening with her two sons who love eating vegetables because they know where the vegetables come from. The family supplements the garden with purchases from the farmer’s market, but the eggs are $1 each.

“I told my son I’m in a campaign to help us get chickens. It’s so important for our children to know where our food comes from. His favorite vegetable is kale. If you pass the ordinance my son will help me build the coop and take care of the chickens. And then everyday will be an Easter egg hunt for my kids,” Kollhatkar said.

“I would also congratulate the people, this is truly a grassroots effort,” Councilmember Terry Tornek said.

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