Woodbury has joined a growing list of suburbs confronting a question ruffling feathers across the Twin Cities: Should chickens and other animals considered livestock also be considered as pets?

At a meeting earlier this month, the City Council voted 5-0 to amend ordinances governing animals to clarify, among other things, that chickens and other farm animals are not pets and therefore aren't allowed in areas of the city not zoned for agriculture.

"The purpose of these changes is really to delineate the keeping of animals as pets and the keeping of animals for business purposes, such as kennels, or for production, such as livestock," said Melissa Douglas, the city's senior planner. The intent is not to add restrictions to pet ownership, she said, but to make clear what is and isn't allowed.

The amendments are partly in response to a zoning code case involving a couple in a residential area about a mile north and east of City Hall. The couple was keeping a few chickens and contended that city ordinances don't explicitly say chickens are banned.

"I'm from a small town, and if you wanted to have these types of animals, you lived on a farm or had some kind of acreage. And if you lived in town, you didn't have these kinds of animals," said Mayor Bill Hargis. "It really wasn't an issue back when I was growing up."

White Bear Lake, Eden Prairie, Golden Valley and Bloomington are just a few of the cities that have dealt with chicken-related issues in recent months, weighing the interests of owners who enjoy them as pets or a source of eggs and neighbors who may not welcome them. The League of Minnesota Cities is researching the issue in response to requests from across the state.

While the Woodbury council approved the clarifying amendments, members also said they would revisit the issue at some point in 2011.