Scratching the surface of the coop

The ETA of backyard chickens at Chesterfield homes could be in the coop sooner rather than later if Chesterfield’s Supervisors continue to bring the question forward. A decision on whether our feathered friends can be raised in residential areas, in addition to agricultural zoned areas where the raising of chickens is currently allowed is the crutch of the situation.

The Board of Supervisors, last week, asked staff to prepare an ordinance, which would then be reviewed by the Planning Commission no later than November. That would be two months earlier than the Board of Supervisors had requested in July.

But the Planning Commission must review the recommendation of staff, and vote on it, before it is sent to the Board for possible approval. A public hearing will held at both levels.

The raising of backyard chickens in the City of Richmond was passed by council in April but comes with some caveats.

Ryann Barnum,  of Moseley, wants the chicken ordinance to change as soon as possible, although she applied for a conditional use permit to allow her to raise chickens on her two-acre parcel.

One neighbor contends, although that neighbor is a quarter-of-a-mile away, that rooster crowing and the smell will be a nuisance.

According to Andrea Epps who is representing Ms. Barnum, “These chickens have become pets to Ryann’s little girls and it’s also a matter of a balance of property rights,” 

Epps said, during a public hearing in July. Somehow chickens were thrown into the same pot as stock farms and she says that a chicken is not stock like cattle or horses.

“Students are given eggs, as a science project, and they put them in incubators; they watch them hatch and then the teacher says, ‘who wants a chicken?’” Epps said. “So what are they going to do with them?”

In 2002 Chesterfield’s Board of Supervisors amended the residential zoning, which disallowed raising chickens, rabbits or any other “stock” animals. Epps says that other jurisdictions are considering the same issue as more people are becoming health conscious.

Board Chairman Dorothy Jaeckle (Bermuda District) may be the biggest advocate for a change in the chicken ordinance. She commented in July that times have changed and there are people who, for health reasons are eating organic, want to raise their own chickens.

Prior to 2002, the Ordinance permitted the keeping of a maximum of 12 chickens in Residential Districts. In 2002, the Ordinance was amended to require a conditional use for the keeping of any chickens in a Residential District.

Recent community interest and pending conditional use applications to allow chickens to be kept in Residential Districts prompted the Board of Supervisors to direct staff to consider possible amendments to the ordinance to allow the chickens in a Residential District. According to information supplied in July, the new ordinance could contain the following conditions: define chickens; provide for the keeping of chickens in a Residential District as a restricted use accessory to dwelling unit; the maximum number of chickens; the gender of chickens; size, location and security of enclosure and no slaughter would be permitted.

In the City of Richmond the ordinance precludes roosters; coops must be in backyards; coops cannot be closer than 15 feet from neighboring dwellings; the owner must pay a $60 annual permit from the city and the coop upkeep can be inspected by the city without announcement.


Hens in the the yard

When I was a teenager, we raised chickens, geese and ducks. I'll never forget the look on my mother's face when I bathed a little bantum rooster I named Rhett Butler in the kitchen sink because he'd been in a fight with another. Now, as a mother of 2 boys, we raise chickens and have an incubator. It's the best science lesson I could ever teach. The entire family takes part in the chicken care and collection of the eggs. Friends pick up our extra eggs for my 8 year olds "egg money". He's saving for something special. He has named them all. They stay in our yard, don't smell at all (wood shavings in the hen house) and the eggs are delicious. A neighbor's dog on the property behind our's comes in our yard (He trespasses because his owner is irresponsible) and this dog has killed 4 of our chickens in the last month. Our own dog's manure smells from her dumps in the woods, but our chickens fertilize the yard and never a smell - and now I have to contend with a trespassing dog that I can't seem to catch so my vote's for chickens - they stay in the yard, take care of the ticks and June beetles, and go in their house at night without being asked and you won't find them in the neighbor's yard killing their dog. Just sayin.

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