Man wants change in chicken ordinance

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Monday, November 16, 2009
— David Innis likes the idea of raising his own food.

So the Janesville resident has asked city council members to pass an ordinance allowing him to keep a few chickens in the city.

He thinks the concept would fit nicely with the green movement.

Janesville's current ordinance forbids chickens except in outlying areas. The city's attorney, however, has said that the city has developed so much that few places qualify as "outlying."

Two council members, Tom McDonald and Yuri Rashkin, have agreed to put the idea on a future agenda for discussion. McDonald expects to refer it to the Sustainable Janesville Committee for review.

Rashkin said he probably wouldn't raise chickens himself, but he would like to see if there is interest in the community.

"Let's bring it up for discussion and see what happens," Rashkin said. "I'd certainly like to learn more about it to make an informed decision."

Innis suggests that Janesville model its ordinance after one in Madison, which allows up to four chickens but no roosters. It also does not allow butchering and requires that the chickens be enclosed and that they be kept a certain distance from neighbors.

Innis, 58, of 320 Park Ave. said raising chickens for food is gaining popularity and is in keeping with the idea of backyard gardens and people's desire to be more self-sufficient with their food.

Gathering eggs from your backyard reduces the need to transport them over long distances and reduces energy and expenses, he said.

"It's part of the overall greening thing with people," Innis said.

Eventually, everyone will have have solar panels and wind power, he predicted.

"Backyard gardens and a small number of hens may naturally go along with it."

Gregory Patmythes, a code inspector in Madison, said the city receives few complaints regarding chickens. The complaints that do come in usually regard roosters.

Madison's ordinance passed in 2004 and pertained only to single-family homes. The ordinance was amended last year to include tenants of properties with up to four dwelling units.

The new amendment also includes a mandatory notification process that requires those who want chickens to get permission from at least 50 percent of the people living within 250 feet. Patmythes did not know the reason that change was made, and a city attorney there did not return a phone call.

Patmythes said the Madison ordinance could still include more details, such as whether the resident also should contact the actual property owners in addition to the tenants.

"We don't have a high volume of chicken-related complaints," Patmythes said, adding that he handled three this year. All pertained to complaints about residents who may be illegally keeping roosters. Two were unfounded.

"I don't think it's a big problem," he said.

Madison has a well-organized grass-roots group that educates about the ordinance and encourages others to be responsible chicken owners.

Madison has issued 82 licenses at $10 a piece. The state Department of Agriculture also requires chickens to be registered, he said.

The chicken ordinance proposal will be included in an upcoming agenda.

Councilman Bill Truman has asked that the council consider allowing pot-bellied pigs, as well.

Last updated: 11:56 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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