Iowa City to talk backyard chickens

Gregg Hennigan
Published: September 10 2009 | 2:03 pm - Updated: 30 March 2014 | 9:15 am in
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The City Council has received somewhat of a split decision from staff on whether to allow city dwellers to keep chickens in their backyards.

In a memo to the council released Thursday, the Department of Housing and Inspection Services recommends against doing so, arguing some of the chickens will become a nuisance.

The Division of Animal Services recommends that the council consider letting people keep a few hens. Animals Services, however, asked that approval be delayed at least one year because of budget constraints and flood-recovery efforts.

The council will discuss the issue at a work session Monday. Currently, the raising of livestock is not allowed in residential zones,

There is a growing national movement among people living in cities seeking to raise chickens, with supporters saying it can save money and help the environment.

Several hundred people signed a petition this summer calling on the City Council to allow people to keep up to five hens, but no roosters, in residential areas. The issue also has come up in Cedar Rapids, although nothing official has been proposed there.

Doug Boothroy, Iowa City’s director of Housing and Inspection Services, warned in the memo of odor, noise and disease problems, attracting rodents and predators and harming property values.

Misha Goodman, the city’s animal services director, wrote that, if maintained properly, chickens are not a nuisance. She checked with officials in Madison, Wis., where backyard chickens are allowed, and was told they have not had problems with odor, animals at large or rodents.

She provided a long list of suggested requirements, should backyard chickens be OK’d. It includes requiring permits and keeping no more than four hens. Neighbors must be notified, and an objection from a neighbor could be grounds for denying a license.

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