Chesterfield planners serve up new chicken rules
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Oct 18, 2013, 15:05
CHESTERFIELD — A plan to allow backyard chickens in Chesterfield received wide support from the public on Tuesday night, and the Planning Commission voted 4-1 to approve an ordinance allowing for an individual to own up to six chickens in a residential area.
Originally, the amendment was drafted to allow residents a maximum of four chickens in their backyard, however several supporters of the ordinance recommended increasing the number to six because state law requires that anybody selling chickens must sell a minimum of six, thus making it relatively difficult to acquire just four.
The ordinance must still be voted on by the Board of Supervisors before taking effect in the county, but the Planning Commission was in charge of establishing the official regulation and wording the amendment to the County Code.
If the Board of Supervisors votes to approve the ordinance, the keeping of chickens will be permitted providing that: “the use is incidental to a dwelling on the premises,” no more than six chickens are kept, no roosters are allowed to be kept on the property, the chickens must be kept within a size regulated building and attached fenced-in run area at all times, the chicken house and run area must be 25 feet from all property lines and no chickens are slaughtered.
Although everyone who showed up to speak about the ordinance was in favor of it, several residents were hoping to get a little more freedom out of the regulation.
Chesterfield resident Nick Johnston believes that the property line distance requirement might be a little too restrictive.
“The 25-foot limit seems a little bit tight to me. I’ve got what I consider a rather large lot, and ... that would put that pretty close to my backdoor,” Johnston said.
James Love, who lives in the Matoaca District, agreed with Johnston backing it up with his personal experience of owning chickens.
“The 25-foot property line could be reduced to 10. I’ve been experimenting on my third year of urban hens, and find that my neighbors have no problem with the current situation, so far as smell and odor. There are none,” Love said.
Virginia Summers, from the Bermuda District, has been researching the idea of owning chickens since 2009, and wants to be able to let her chickens range freely in her backyard during the day, and coop them up during the night.
“I agree secure fencing to keep them from trespassing and to keep your neighbor’s dog out is an absolute must, but I’d really be happier if I had the opportunity to free range them in my yard to eat pests, fleas, ticks ... and it’s healthier for the birds rather than being confined in a very small space,” Summers said at the public hearing.
Planning Commission member Edgar Wallin, who made the motion to approve the ordinance, said that he is in favor of accommodating these further amendments and provisions down the road, but most importantly, there first has to be a sufficient transition in the county.
“Think of the number of households and the number of lots in Chesterfield County. There has to be a beginning point somewhere, and I can assure you the staff has done a lot of research, not just in Chesterfield County, but throughout metropolitan areas, and they have come up with a beginning point,” Wallin said.
Commission member Russell Gulley, who voted against the ordinance, said the idea is “ridiculous,” and that many residential lots, from 7,000-12,000 square feet, are too small to accommodate for the use of chickens and would aggravate neighbors in those communities.
“They didn’t expect to move into some place that the next door neighbor has farm animals,” Gulley said. “I’m certainly not in favor of this. Maybe people that have acreage, that’s a different story, but [when you’ve got] these small lot subdivisions, it’s not the place to do it, and my philosophy is if you want eggs you go to the grocery store, if you want fresh eggs you go to the farmer’s market.”
Chesterfield resident Steve Meadows, who didn’t express interest in owning any chickens himself, supported the ordinance, stating that he can already hear roosters from a distance, but that the noise is not bothersome compared to the six dogs surrounding his household that keep him up at night.
“This is not a big issue, and I think we should let people have their chickens,” Meadows said.