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File photo of a backyard chicken taking a stroll with a dog.

Mike Zerby, Star Tribune

Backyard chickens move up pecking order in Twin Cities suburbs

  • Article by: Susan Feyder
  • Star Tribune
  • June 23, 2014 - 8:19 AM

The pros and cons of urban agriculture continue to pop up in suburbs as more communities approve or consider allowing back-yard chickens.

Shakopee is the latest, last week adopting an ordinance permitting residents to have up to five hens in their back yards.

Shakopee’s neighbor, Savage, doesn’t allow back-yard chickens, but its City Council recently discussed the topic, according to City Administrator Barry Stock. He said it’s likely the council will approve an ordinance in August.

A growing number of Twin Cities communities — including Minneapolis, St. Paul and numerous suburbs — allow chickens on residential property.

Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke said his city’s new ordinance is “just putting government in line with the will of the community.” He said he already knows of several residents who kept chickens even before the ordinance was approved.

As in many communities, much of the interest in having chickens in Shakopee came from young people. Tabke said Shakopee High School students who were participants in the school’s Environmental Learning Center were among the first to approach the city about allowing chickens.

“It’s really important that we keep our rural heritage in Shakopee as well as teaching kids that agriculture is an important part of their lives,” said Tabke, who grew up on a farm in northwestern Iowa. He said he is planning on getting chickens and that his 7-year-old and 3-year-old daughters will help take care of them.

Shakopee’s new ordinance outlines several conditions for keeping back-yard chickens, including rules on fencing, and the size and location of coops and chicken runs. The ordinance prohibits roosters, and chicken owners are not allowed to sell eggs commercially.

Shakopee’s police department reviewed ordinances from several other metro communities to help craft the new ordinance. Police Chief Jeff Tate told the council that cities already allowing chickens have had an “extremely low” number of complaints on noise or odors.

Council Member Jay Whiting said that he was taken aback when the request for back-yard chickens initially surfaced.

“I thought, ‘This is crazy. We’re a modern city.’” But he changed his mind after talking to people and realizing how widespread the practice had become.

That attitude didn’t appear to be shared by Lakeville’s Planning Commission, which last week unanimously recommended the City Council deny a request for an ordinance allowing chickens in residential areas.

The council, which had directed city planners to research and prepare a proposed ordinance, is expected to consider the matter in July.

The commission had previously reviewed and rejected the need for an ordinance allowing chickens in residential areas in 2011. At a public hearing last week, several resi­dents spoke in favor of permitting chickens, with some criticizing the restrictions that had been spelled out in the proposed new rules.

Lakeville’s proposed ordinance would allow no more than two hens, unlike most communities, which typically set the limit at four or five. Lakeville also would require coops far larger than those in most communities and require people with chickens to pay $100 a year for a permit.

Even with those limits, commissioners said they weren’t in favor of allowing chickens in residential areas. “We’ve had a number of people write to us and comment that this would be detri­mental to the image of Lake­ville,” said Commissioner Bob Boerschel.

 

Susan Feyder • 952-746-3282

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