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Edgerton City Council to consider urban chickens

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
April 10, 2010
— Chickens could come home to roost in residential Edgerton if city officials change a few conflicting ordinances.

Officials are reviewing two recent requests by residents that ordinances be amended to allow up to four hens on residential properties. The city now only allows chickens in areas zoned for agriculture.


One resident who asked the city to amend its chicken rules said she did so to learn more about urban chicken husbandry. Greta Hansen, who lives at 612 Doty St., said she’s researching the idea of raising chickens at her home. She likes fresh eggs.


Hansen hasn’t decided whether it would be worth the work and the expense.


“I’m years away from owning a chicken,” she said. “I’m really just collecting a lot of information on the topic. As part of that process, I wanted to learn about the local ordinances.”


Another Edgerton family, Matt and Beth Goetsch of 407 Albion St., have made a similar request.


A review of city codes turns up conflicting rules on chicken ownership in Edgerton.


A city public health and sanitation ordinance allows the city to grant one-year licenses for chickens and chicken coops. But the licenses essentially would be useless.


That’s because two separate city ordinances clash with the provision: One is a zoning ordinance; the other is an animal regulation ordinance. Both state people cannot own or house chickens in residential areas.


City Administrator Ramona Flanigan said the discrepancy comes because of a mishmash of codes written at different times.


“Some ordinances are old. They don’t mesh. When we examine these kinds of policies, that’s not unusual,” Flanigan said.


A March 31 city memo asked the city’s public works committee to address the ordinance wrinkles and to decide whether chickens should be allowed in non-agricultural areas.


The discussion, which officials said could happen at a meeting as early as April 19, would come before any recommendations could be made to the planning commission or the city council.


Alderman Matt McIntyre said officials would need to address potential chicken-related issues, including noise, cleanliness, property setbacks and rooster ownership.


“We’ll just have to start discussing all the pros and cons of allowing people to have chickens in our city,” he said.


McIntyre said it’s been years since residents last asked the city for permission to keep chickens.


Hansen said the urban chicken movement in Madison spurred her interest, but she’s not sure if people in Edgerton will be open to the idea.


“A lot of folks think anything that goes on in Madison is nutty,” she said.


Hansen said she hasn’t spoken with neighbors about her request.


“If they were opposed to it, I wouldn’t press it,” she said.


Flanigan said she expects the issue will draw a polarized public response.


“People will either love the idea of chickens in town, or they’ll think it’s crazy,” she said.


The Janesville City Council in February rejected an ordinance change that would have allowed residents to keep chickens in their backyards.



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