Posted on

City right to revisit chicken ordinance


Members of the Courier Sentinel editorial board include publisher Carol O’Leary, general manager Kris O’Leary and

Star News editor Brian Wilson. The Cornell City Council made the right decision in sending a proposed chicken ordinance back to the drawing board.

The ordinance, as presented, seeks to make it as painful as possible for homeowners to keep chickens in the city limits, with the implementation of steep fees and excessive regulation. The sole purpose of the ordinance, as it is written, is to deny residents the ability to keep chickens, by making compliance economically impractical or just so onerous that residents give up trying.

Under the proposed ordinance, applicants would be required to pay a $50 per year license fee, in order to keep up to six chicks or chickens (but no roosters). In addition, they would have to pay a $50 inspection fee, with follow-up inspections every other year, at $25 a time.

Under the proposed ordinance, applicants begging for permission to keep chickens, would have to submit to the city building inspector plans for the coop. Those plans would have to provide one square yard of space for each chicken and ensure the coop would have a washable floor, such as linoleum or concrete, with dirt floors specifically not allowed.

Any coop or run would also have to be enclosed on all sides, including the top, to prevent the chickens from escaping and wrecking havoc throughout the city.

The proposed chicken ordinance is a regulatory solution to a non-existent problem. The city is far from overrun with unlicensed poultry operations.As proposed, the ordinance is a regulatory overreach that seeks to treat backyard urban poultry enthusiasts as if they were running commercial farming operations.

There should be reasonable limits on the number of chickens a property owner may keep, just as there should be practical limits on the number of dogs, cats or other pets a person should be able to keep on a standard city property. These types of rules are based on the health and welfare of the residents, and the animals.

The uniformity clause in Wisconsin’s state constitution, requires all residents to be treated equally under the law. The proposed chicken ordinance flies in the face of this rule, by imposing punitive fees for chickens, especially when compared to the license fees for dogs or other pets.

Backyard poultry are typically raised more as family pets than for any commercial application. No urban chicken owner is getting rich off the sale of excess eggs. If someone is running such a commercial operation on a residential property, there are existing remedies within the zoning code to address non-permitted uses, without waging war on all poultry.

City residents should be allowed to choose if they want to keep chickens on their property, without having busybodies imposing restrictions that treat a backyard henhouse like a factory farm. In the race to regulate pet chickens, the city officials left common sense in the dust.

With the opportunity to revisit the proposed ordinance, the city has a chance to correct that and bring forward a common sense plan, that balances the rights of all property owners.