(l-r) City Planner Lori Peckol, Howard Harrison
Planner Kim Deitz and college intern Andrea May
35 citizens give mostly positive input at August 3 city meeting on backyard chickens. But, some objections and concerns are raised.
UPDATED OPINION: I talked my wife (Pam) into going to this city-sponsored community meeting last Wednesday on backyard chickens. She was brought up on a farm in California and was one of the few skeptical participants attending.
City planners were requesting citizen input on chickens in preparation for proposing new language for the Comprehensive Plan Update that would allow backyard chickens on lots smaller than 1/2 acre. Participants discussed seven animal husbandry topics. Input from this meeting, a city survey and Planning Commission recommendations will be reviewed by city council before they make their decision sometime this year.
The meeting was loaded mostly with pro-backyard chicken advocates. About 31 citizens attended plus councilmembers Hank Myers and Kim Allen, and Planning Commission chair Tom Hinman. Staff presence was heavy, with at least six city planners guiding discussions on seven chicken topics.
A small minority of participants (~3) expressed genuine skepticism on various issues of backyard chickens.
Richard Grubb, past Redmond council member, was very outspoken Read More >>
about potential for animal abuse. Mr. Grubb dedicates much of his volunteer time rescuing abused and neglected cats running wild in the neighborhoods. In fact, he helped me catch, neuter and release over 5 feral cats from my backyard. He thinks the backyard chicken ordinance will pass, but fears it could become a fad leading to a certain amount of abandonment and neglect. Grubb said, "Most people are concerned about the effect of animals on people, then the effect of people on animals."
Pam lived on a farm as a child. She's seen and cared for abusebd farm animals and doubts all "urban farmers" will be as conscientious as the advocates at this meeting. It's known owners will treat their chickens as pets. What happens when they stop laying eggs? Will owners be willing and able to slaughter their pet or give it away?
It appeared when an objection to backyard chickens came up, the audience usually treated it as a misunderstanding and recommended education. Pam suggested community "rent-a-coops' (at Juel Park), as did some others. What do you think?
One of my concerns is the attraction of wildlife. I feed an abandoned, feral cat and unless her food is brought back into the house, ravens, jays, squirrels or even a raccoon may be all over it. Consider that cats, dogs, and raccoons prey on chickens. Who's going to manage the chickens when homes are unoccupied (vacations, business trips, etc.)? Who will coop the hens and clean out the feces? One participant said chicken manure is about the size of a half dollar and can kill plants if tilled into a garden. It must be composted first to use as a fertilizer - or removed. The implementation and costs of Code Compliance is a consideration.
After thoughtful consideration of these questions and others, I've decided the benefits of backyard chickens outweigh the challenges. I believe backyard chickens are a community building asset and a step towards sustainability. However, it helps to look at all sides. What do you think? This meeting was intended to build a position for sustainability and engage residents. It appears it succeeded. If you want to give your two cents to the city I recommend the survey. It's short and there's as much room as you need to tell them what's on your mind.
City survey on backyard chickens: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/redmondsmallanimalhusbandry2011
Opinion by Bob Yoder
Photo by Yoder