Lakeville, one of just a few Dakota County cities that still ban them, is considering an ordinance to let residents raise chickens.

Lakeville resident Sue Braaten isn't the only one hoping the city of Lakeville will finally pass an ordinance allowing residents to keep back-yard chickens.

Her three kids are also "really, really excited" about the prospect of raising chickens, which she calls "pets with benefits."

"They've been coloring pictures of chickens and picking out names," she said.

A year ago, Braaten created the website lakevillechick, in an attempt to get the city to allow residents to keep chickens. Recently, she e-mailed the City Council and mayor about the idea.

The city is one of the last in Dakota County that doesn't allow back-yard chickens, but last month, the city began discussing an ordinance allowing chickens, a topic that has come up several times before, said Mayor Matt Little.

Every year, he and City Council members get "quite a few" e-mails or Facebook posts about chickens. Residents have told him they want to have chickens as pets, or to teach their kids how to care for a productive animal. Others are interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle and producing their own food, he said.

But the city is proceeding with caution, which likely means allowing just two chickens — hens only, no roosters — and creating performance standards on coop upkeep. There may also be restrictions on where coops can be built and how visible they are, Little said.

"We're considering an ordinance that will probably be the most restrictive of cities that allow chickens in the metro area," he said.

More than a dozen Twin Cities suburbs now allow back-yard chickens, including Burnsville, Eagan and Rosemount, with various cav­eats. Last March, Farmington approved an ordinance allowing three chickens if residents have a certain size lot and hold a public hearing.

Fresh eggs wanted

Braaten got the idea to have chickens because her aunt has a small flock and "we just really enjoy them," she said.

She also wants the fresh eggs that come with having hens. Currently, she buys pasture-raised eggs, which have a darker yolk, thicker whites and a heavier shell. They taste better than eggs produced conventionally and have more nutrients, she said.

"People want healthy food, and it's really hard to get from the traditional grocery store," she said.

Braaten said she's "really excited" that Lakeville is considering the idea, though she would like the city to allow five chickens instead of two. With each hen producing five eggs a week, having one hen per person in a family is recommended, she said.

Little, who said he's already gotten requests to have more than two chickens, said the number allowed is "arbitrary in my mind."

While two council members, along with Little, indicated support of a chicken ordinance, Council Member Bart Davis is still on the fence. He said he's "initially against it, but I'm willing to listen and consider it."

His No. 1 concern is the compatibility of chickens in a residential area and how that will affect neighbors, he said. "I'm still not convinced we have all the answers. I think we need to get it right."

A City Council document discussed at last month's work session noted that most cities allowing chickens have issued only a small number of permits, and none had any "significant complaints" by neighbors.

"I don't think there's going to be a mad rush to have chickens," Little said.

But Braaten said four of her neighbors have indicated an interest in keeping them. If the ordinance passes, she said she will be considerate about any concerns her neighbors have, she said.

Little said Lakeville can benefit from being among the last cities allowing chickens, because there's "a lot of experience and there's a lot of information out there that we can use."

Next steps include drafting an ordinance and bringing it to the planning commission. "There's plenty of discussion to be had yet," Little said.

"I think it's about time," Braaten said.

Erin Adler 952-746-3283