Although the idea of allowing backyard chickens within city limits might ruffle the feathers of some residents, it's a trend across the country as consumers seek fresh, natural and organic foods.

Although the idea of allowing backyard chickens within city limits might ruffle the feathers of some residents, it's a trend across the country as consumers seek fresh, natural and organic foods.

Some residents have purchased chickens and set up coops before their jurisdictions permitted the birds.

Those crying fowl in the matter cite possible odors, noise, diseases and decreased property values.

In central Ohio, Gahanna and Powell are considering code changes to allow urban chickens.

Chicken appeal

Gahanna resident Jeannie Hoffman said she has wanted chickens for years, more so after watching a documentary about chicken farms and how poorly the birds are treated.

"Backyard-chicken owners put pressure on the industry to clean things up," she said.

Hoffman said she knew Gahanna would consider legislation to allow chickens, but she purchased seven chicks before the issue was brought forward.

"I had them in the house, then the garage, then outside," she said.

Hoffman, who said the birds' behavior is fascinating to watch, said she knows of other Gahanna residents who have chickens.

"I think they read our code wrong or thought, 'Why would I need a permit for a chicken?' " she said.

Gahanna resident Karen Bailey has had chickens for two years, and she spent more than $1,000 on a coop and enclosed run.

"It's about the eggs, and you have to love chickens," she said.

Her chickens produce about four brown eggs daily, she said.

"Most people who want chickens already have them," Bailey said. "They are sparsely around, but they are there. Everyone I know is very responsible. We live in neighborhoods like this (Royal Manor)."

Bailey and Hoffman said they would give their chickens to relatives if Gahanna leaders decide they can't keep them.

Other community perspectives

One of the last causes Johnstown native Shelly Harris Ward actively supported was to allow backyard chickens in Cheyenne, Wyo., where she had lived with her son, Blake.

"Shelly took a petition around to get signatures," said Linda Harris, Shelly's mother and a Johnstown resident. "Shelly and Blake lived in a Cheyenne neighborhood where it was illegal to have chickens."

On April 25, the day Harris Ward, 43, died from a cardiac event, Cheyenne's council approved a plan to allow a residence to have five hens and no roosters.

"Coming from a 4-H background, I think it is a perfect youth project to teach responsibility and animal husbandry skills," Harris said.

Cheyenne council member Scott Roybal said it has been going well since the legislation passed.

"The folks who had chickens before -- the way the ordinance was written they had to get a written permission from adjacent landowners," he said. "Talking to animal control, they've picked up one chicken that went rogue. A few residents got chickens and decided they couldn't do it."

He said Cheyenne Local Urban Chicken Keepers -- an informal organization comprising people sharing an interest in urban chickens -- came in and adopted them right away.

"The folks who were opposed, we haven't heard anything," Roybal said. "The naysayers were in their late 50s, 60s and 70s. They grew up on farms where there were 30 to 50 chickens every day. Our local ordinance says five chickens."

When he was running for council, Roybal said, he was knocking on doors and knew of a half dozen residents who illegally had harbored chickens.

"After our ordinance passed, they did what they were supposed to and got (approvals)," he said.

Because a permit isn't required for chickens in Cheyenne, Roybal said, he doesn't have precise figures on the chicken population, but the city's population is about 63,500.

Johnstown Manager-Planner Jim Lenner said the village has a few residences with chickens.

"They must be fenced, have no roosters and cannot make an odor," he said. "I actually have about five a few houses down from me, and I never hear or smell them."

Amy Jennings, an animal-control officer in Bexley, said her city hasn't had any issues since urban chickens were allowed beginning at the end of 2010.

"Everybody has been good and kept them clean," she said. "We don't allow roosters. Enforcement is minimal because everyone has been so great. We issue free permits so we know who has chickens. We have roughly 20 permits."

Before chickens were allowed, Jennings said, she knew of one woman who had them as pets.

"She had it set up in the house for them," she said. "Once the ordinance went through, she actually set them up outside."

Jennings said residents like raising chickens to have their own eggs.

"I think nowadays we're into the all-natural foods and organic foods and people want their own home-raised eggs and garden and home-grown veggies," she said. "I think people are really interested in doing that."

County strategy

Franklin County planning administrator Matt Brown, who's with the Development and Planning Department, said the county adopted new regulations in 2013.

Since then, 10 permits have been issued for residents to keep chickens, ducks or rabbits.

"The county's impetus for the zoning amendment to allow residents to keep chickens, ducks and rabbits on properties less than 5 acres in size was threefold," he said.

Those reasons included increasing access to healthful, affordable food; promoting the sustainable use of land by allowing residents to produce their own food; and keeping with the Commissioners' Core Principles to "promote community planning, zoning-code enforcement ... that will improve the quality of life, health and safety of county residents."

"The zoning amendment allowed residents to raise these types of animals with reasonable development standards to protect the health and safety of residents and help prevent nuisances," Brown said.

He said code enforcement receives complaints from time to time about someone keeping roosters or large numbers of chickens, and the county works with the resident to bring the property into compliance.

"Overall, I think the regulation is achieving its goal of allowing those that want to produce some of their own food to do so while ensuring the health and safety of the community," Brown said. "Interest in urban agriculture and local foods has been on the rise for a number of years."

He said Franklin County and Columbus initiated a Local Food Action Plan project almost two years ago to identify ways of strengthening the local food system to:

* Enhance coordination and communication among existing food resources and agencies.

* Increase access to, and education about, healthy affordable food and local food.

* Increase the role of food in economic development.

* Prevent food-related waste.

More information about the project is available at columbus.gov/publichealth/programs/Local-Food-Action-Plan/.

@ThisWeekMarla