Planning commission walking on eggshells with chicken decision

Chickens in city limits OK’d, but on a case-by-case basis


Jefferson residents won’t exactly be able to walk into their backyard and grab a freshly laid chicken egg after all.

After Joyce Allender’s recent request to allow chickens in town, the city Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday considered declaring chickens as pets.

City law currently deems poultry as livestock.

Though no commission members believed many families within the city limits would begin to raise chickens, they were concerned with “opening the doors” to all residents raising backyard chickens.

Instead, they approved a motion to allow exceptions to the law of what’s considered a pet.

The Board of Variance would then need to hear each case, meaning each resident wishing for an exception to the law would need to appeal to the board.

When asked if she approved of the action, Allender said she agreed that not all residents could handle the opportunity.

“I’ve seen the housing. I’ve seen the rules. I’ve seen the children. It would be difficult,” Allender said about enforcement of laws if chickens were considered pets. “That’s why we have the humane society and P.A.W.S. because of all the animals and extraneous breeding for fun.”

Allender had moved from Wisconsin to a farm in Jefferson, where she said chickens that her autistic daughter raised helped her learn about healthy relationships.

“I feel that’s the way my daughter has learned about relationships,” Allender said of her daughter, Conner. “I found that Conner didn’t have that much experience with dogs or cats. The chickens are hers. She can raise them and hold them and they’ll talk to us. It’s more of a relationship bonding that you can see with pets.”

Allender has since moved to a home in Jefferson and is making plans to keep three chickens at her home. The three chickens her daughter raised and showed at the fair were Banny hens, which are smaller than other breeds.

Commission member Vern Foje expressed concern about the amount of care chickens would take and possible disease.

Allender said that in her case, a vet and fair judges could vouch for her chickens’ health and the care she provides. Allender also said disease is not as much of an issue, but mites are.

“I keep family together. In our family, there’s a lot of animals,” she said.

As for predators, Allender said her chicken feed is sealed tight so as not to attract predators, and the coyotes that had prowled on the outskirts of her farm had never approached the chicken shed.

She recommended chickens should be kept in a secure house with doors that latched, not chicken wire fences.

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