Upper Arlington News

UA fowl-fanciers plan forum on 'urban chickens'

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

A burgeoning clutch of Upper Arlington residents hoping to entice city officials to lift restrictions on keeping chickens in residential backyards will host an informational forum on the issue April 23.

UA residents seeking to raise small broods of chickens on their properties, as well as urban chicken aficionados and area health officials, will discuss the matter at the Upper Arlington Public Library's main branch, 2800 Tremont Road.

The forum will begin at 7 p.m. in the library's Friends Theater, and organizers are inviting fellow residents and Upper Arlington City Council members to attend.

The organizers hope the event will provide important information to residents who might be interested in raising chickens on their properties to provide sustainable food sources, and will allay concerns opponents might have about such projects.

From there, the group plans to take the issue before city council in hopes of lifting restrictions currently in place in Upper Arlington.

"The purpose of this meeting is to educate our community and bring in some people with a lot of experience working with backyard chickens, or urban chickens," said Janis Mars Wunderlich, a Braunton Road resident who has been spearheading the issue locally for the past few months.

"Mostly, it's informational, but we also would like to, No. 1, gauge people's interest so we can go forth to city council," she said. "Secondly, the purpose is to educate city council members on this topic."

For reasons ranging from a desire to cut costs by raising their own food to the increased popularity of locally grown organic food to interest in educating children about the natural world, the issue of backyard 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 within city limits.

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

"So far, I've heard from about 20 homeowners in UA who are expressing interest," Wunderlich said. "Just to put that into perspective, the city of Bexley currently has about that many permit-holders currently keeping chickens in Bexley."

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.

At the April 23 forum, Denise Beno, a former local poultry producer and past board member of the American Pastured Poultry Producers Association who teaches classes on urban chickens for City Folks Farm Shop, will lead a presentation on the do's and don'ts of raising chickens in urban areas. She also will answer questions about what impacts urban chickens have on neighboring properties.

Thad Welch, a former agricultural journalist and recruiter for Ohio State University's Agricultural and Natural Resources College who also has raised urban chickens, will discuss issues related to raising chickens in urban, residential settings.

"I have two people coming who are experts," Wunderlich said. "I really want council and other community members to come and ask questions that they have."

Wunderlich said she also wants to show that there are people in Upper Arlington who are interested in raising chickens for eggs or meat.

Currently, Upper Arlington city code prohibits 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 said she's hoping council will amend the local laws to allow backyard chickens, much the same as Columbus, Bexley and other communities have done.

"I just think residents in Upper Arlington should have the opportunity to do things with their yards to help them be more sustainable," she said. "I think that residents are growing in their interest of wanting to be sustainable, and this is just one of those things you could do to be more sustainable.

"I also just think it would be fun, and I don't think raising chickens would be too different than having a cat or dog, except chickens are sustainable."

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