Backyard Hens

City Council members are reconsidering lot sizes and amounts of hens homeowners can have in Edmond. Harper, daughter of Olivia Stookey, enjoys time with her friend Buffy.

Two years after first allowing residents to keep chickens inside city limits, the Edmond City Council will consider easing restrictions to let more homeowners participate in the increasingly popular activity.

The council heard from area residents for and against the plan at its June 24 meeting and will reconsider the idea at its July 22 meeting.

Current law allows up to eight hens on lots of at least .68 acres, or 30,000 square feet. Potential chicken owners must apply for a permit; roosters are prohibited, as are slaughtering chickens. Coops must be set back five feet from the property line and 25 feet from a neighboring structure.

The proposed change would allow four hens on lots up to a quarter-acre, six hens on lots between a quarter-acre and a half-acre, and eight hens on lots larger than a half-acre. The ordinance applies only to neighborhoods without homeowners association covenants. HOAs have the final say in their neighborhoods.

Members of Edmond Urban Chickens, the local group that successfully pushed in 2017 for the first law allowing chickens within city limits, said they were hoping the success of the first ordinance would move the council to ease the lot size restrictions.

Gena Money, with Edmond Urban Chickens, told the council since 2017 the group has put on two “coop tours” to teach residents about the care and keeping of chickens and held an auction that raised more than $1,000 for Edmond Animal Welfare.

The group also coordinated to provide an $800 coop for Edmond Animal Welfare to house chickens taken in by the agency. In the past two years, Animal Welfare has taken in five surrendered chickens and four stray chickens, all of which were quickly re-homed, Money said.

She said the time since the city first allowed chickens has proved that chickens are not a nuisance, and the positive impact of backyard chickens has only grown.

In a letter, Nikki Smith, Edmond Police Animal Services supervisor, wrote that the agency has “experienced no ill effects since the ordinance was adopted.”

Lainie Copeland, with Edmond Urban Chickens, said as keeping chickens has grown in popularity, many cities and suburbs throughout the region have come to allow up to four “hobby chickens” on any lot with no permit.

“It takes 10 large chickens to produce the same amount of waste as a medium-sized dog. And that can be composted,” Copeland said. “The city of Austin pays residents $75 to put up a coop and keep chickens because of the landfill waste that it will reduce. Since we were here two years ago, it’s just grown by leaps and bounds.”

She said the group would hold a workshop in the fall if the ordinance passes.

Ed Moore, with the Edmond Neighborhood Alliance, spoke against the changes, as did former city councilman David Miller, who said expanding the ordinance would burden city staff.

Copeland said Edmond Urban Chickens has a good relationship with Animal Welfare.

“The city has an excellent animal welfare department,” she said. “If there is noise or smell, they are out there, and we want them to be out there, because it’s all about the health of the animals.”

Council members Josh Moore and Nick Massey each proposed lowering the minimum lot size instead of eliminating it altogether.

Massey also floated the idea of attaching a sunset clause to any change in the ordinance, which would allow the council to let the law expire if problems come up.

Councilman Darrell Davis said one of his fundamental concerns about the proposal was for residents who don’t live in a homeowners association.

“Some people have selected to live in neighborhoods that prohibit certain things,” Davis said. “Some of us live in neighborhoods where there is no HOA, so the only protections we have are from the city.”

The city’s chicken/laying hen policy and the letters from Edmond Urban Chickens and Edmond Animal Welfare can be found at http://edmondok.swagit.com/play/06242019-953 or by searching the archives of www.edmondok.com for the June 24 City Council Meeting.