Chesterfield board OKs backyard chickens
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Feb 3, 2014, 12:47
CHESTERFIELD — Chesterfield residents are now permitted to keep up to six chickens on residential properties following a 3-2 vote by the Board of Supervisors, with supervisors Arthur Warren and Daniel Gecker dissenting.
The Chesterfield Board of Supervisors instructed the Planning Commission to draft an ordinance in August of 2013 related to the keeping of residential chickens, which took just under five months to come back before the board for a vote.
Before finalizing the vote on Jan. 22, the board agreed on a couple of amendments to the ordinance, including increasing the permissible number of chickens from four to six and implementing a provision that would require the chicken owner to keep their coops or pens clean.
The original conception of the ordinance was written to allow a residents to own a maximum of four chickens in their backyard, however it was amended after numerous supporters of the ordinance recommended increasing the number to six because state law requires that anybody selling chickens must sell a minimum of six, therefore creating certain roadblocks in acquiring just four.
As far as regulating the cleanliness of the coops, Bermuda District Supervisor Dorothy Jaeckle said that it would be enforced in a more complaint-based manner.
“I certainly don’t expect the planning department to go around inspecting people’s chicken coops. However, if a neighbor does complain because someone isn’t keeping one clean, then it gives you the language in the ordinance to be able to make the person enforce it,” Jaeckle said.
A representative for the Chesterfield County Animal Control, who will be in charge of enforcing these regulations, said they will apply the same state codes and definitions they use for dogs and other companion animals.
Up to six chickens will be allowed provided that: “the use is incidental to a dwelling on the premises,” no roosters are kept on the property, the chickens must be kept within a size regulated building and adjacent 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, according to the ordinance.
The chicken house must be a minimum of 10 square feet and a maximum of 20 square feet with the fenced-in area being a maximum of 40 square feet and a minimum of five square feet per chicken.
Warren, who voted against the ordinance, said that chickens belong on agricultural and farming properties and should not “be defined as a pet to go into residential neighborhoods.”
After 14 years of experience with the Chesterfield county government, Gecker felt that the ordinance was unnecessary given that the former policy granted permits to a small number of residents who wanted chickens on an application basis.
“It provide[d] neighbors and neighborhoods with a voice in that decision, and changing the default rule to allowing this as opposed to letting it be much more neighborhood and neighbor-oriented seems to me to be the wrong use of government,” Gecker said.
There is no limit on the number of chickens allowed on agricultural parcels of three or more acres in the county.
This legislation was passed just weeks following the decision by the Prince George Board of Supervisors to allow for residential property owners to keep chickens.