Upper Arlington News

UA woman hatching plans to raise chickens

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Upper Arlington resident Janis Wunderlich doesn't want to upset her neighbors or create a big fuss, but she'd really like some feathered friends to provide her with fresh eggs.

Wunderlich said has become increasingly interested in recent years in urban gardening and self-sufficiency. She already maintains a garden in the backyard of her Braunton Road home, but now she'd like to take it a step further.

"I would like to seek a small change in city ordinances to get a small flock of chickens," Wunderlich said. "The reason I want to keep them is for eggs.

"I would like to have the eggs for sustainability, and I think about four chickens would be able to supply me with what I need."

For reasons ranging from people's desire to cut costs by raising their own food to the increased popularity of locally grown organic foods to educating children about the natural world, the issue of "backyard" or "urban" chickens has been on the rise for several years in central Ohio.

It's been discussed by city councils in Delaware, Grandview, Reynoldsburg, Westerville and Worthington in recent years, with those communities choosing to pass on enacting legislation to specifically allow raising feathered fowl.

The cities of Columbus and Bexley allow backyard chickens, but also regulate them.

In Columbus, each case is considered individually. Public safety, health and animal welfare are considered before issuing a permit, which can be revoked at any time, according to Jose Rodriguez, director of public affairs and communications for Columbus Public Health.

Conditions that must be met include providing a coop with proper flooring, he said. The chickens must be examined by a veterinarian, and neighbors are contacted and their concerns considered before a permit is issued.

Property values are not considered, though any structure must fit in with the neighborhood, Rodriguez said.

Rodriguez didn't immediately have information related to the number of permits issued in Columbus.

"I can tell you that it's been not too many," he said.

Upper Arlington City Attorney Jeanine Hummer didn't respond to a question as to whether backyard chickens would be permitted within the city. She referred instead to several sections of city code which, among other things, prohibit anyone from keeping or harboring animals or fowl which howl, bark or emit audible sounds that are unreasonably loud, or which become "filthy, offensive or in any manner injurious to the health or comfort of persons living or employed in the vicinity of such place."

Another city code prohibits keeping livestock -- including chickens or hens -- on any property not zoned for agricultural use unless approved by the Upper Arlington Board of Zoning and Planning.

Wunderlich has five children, including two in middle school and an 8-year-old. She said she wants to teach her younger children about where eggs come from, and about self-sustainability.

"I really want to make the most of the land I'm living on," she said. "I want a big garden. I want fruit trees. I really want to be able to sustain myself as much as I can.

"I'm interested in looking at sustainability and I am interested in knowing where my food comes from."

Wunderlich currently is researching urban chicken coops and how she can petition Upper Arlington City Council to permit her to raise approximately four hens in her fenced-in backyard.

The matter has yet to come before city council and, as such, Upper Arlington Mayor and council President Frank Ciotola declined comment on the matter.

"Without having any discussion, I can't make any comment on that from council," he said.

Wunderlich said she doesn't want to sell the eggs, and she hopes to use hens to combat insects in her garden, while also fertilizing it.

"I'm pretty sure the waste they do produce would not be any worse than say, dog poop, in terms of disposal," she said.

Wunderlich also noted there likely are "kinks" to work out before she could move forward with her plan, or even a petition to council.

Among them is the response she might receive from neighbors or others in the city.

She said she has no interest in upsetting her neighbors or skirting city laws.

At the same time, Wunderlich said, she wants the right to raise chickens in a safe and sanitary manner on her land, and she hopes to hear from others who might be interested in doing the same.

"If four people are interested, I'm probably fighting a losing battle," she said. "But if we have 100 people that are interested, that's another story."

Wunderlich said those interested in her proposal can contact her through her website, janismarswunderlich.com

 

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