Gillette City Council Ok’s urban chickens, with stipulations

(file photo)

Gillette residents will soon be able to house up to five chickens within city limits after two changes to the city code were approved by the Gillette City Council Tuesday.

The council passed two ordinances 5-2 in favor with only Councilmen Greg Schreurs and Billy Montgomery voting against them April 6.

The first ordinance outlines city zones where urban chickens are allowed while the second ordinance establishes requirements to house them.

The passing of the ordinances leaves the city just 10 days from April 6 to finalize plans on how to manage and enforce the new portion of the city code before residents can begin applying for urban chickens, City Attorney Anthony Reyes said during the meeting, including how to address potential associated costs.

Those increased costs, which were not specified, drew skepticism from Ward 1 resident Betsy Jones, who sat on the city’s urban chicken task force before the measure appeared before the council and wanted to know how much more the city would be paying for a few hundred residents to have chickens.

“It seems to me, that these are the answers that we need,” Jones said, adding that she had recently read that the city will be cutting its drive and drop program due to budgetary constraints to save $100,000.

She wondered aloud how much of those savings would go towards managing urban chickens.

“We have temporary things right now,” Reyes replied, indicating that 10 days would be more than enough time to finalize plans, which could include adding additional cages at the city/county animal shelter in the event residents surrender chickens.

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“Obviously, we can’t house (chickens) with dogs and cats,” Reyes said, adding that further costs could be accrued should the city need to bolster the number of animal control officers to handle more home inspections for residents wanting urban chickens.

“What we have to figure out, is how much this is going to cost us and whether the fees cover it. That’s what we’re hoping for at this point,” Reyes said.

With the current fee arrangement, the city will receive $50 per urban chicken license up front, and $15 each year per license renewal, according to the ordinances.

The costs associated with the new ordinances are contingent on the number of applications for urban chicken licenses the city receives, per Reyes.

“We don’t know how many people are going to want chickens,” Reyes said.

Urban chicken requirements

In accordance with the ordinances, up to five chickens will be allowed in most areas within the city limits that satisfy new requirements outlined in the city code.

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Residents wanting to house chickens on their property will need to file an application with the city for an urban chicken license, which requires they build proper accommodations for chickens that will have to pass an inspection prior to approval, per the ordinances.

Chickens must be provided an appropriately sized coop that provides at least 4 square feet of living space per bird, does not exceed 60 square feet, and is seven feet or less at the highest point of the roof, according to the ordinance, which further states coops must satisfy the current city building code.

Coops must be fully enclosed with proper ventilation, predator resistant, and chickens must be able to access the coop at all time.

Residents will also need to construct a chicken pen, or chicken run, that can properly contain chickens to the owner’s property, according to the ordinance.

All chicken structures are permitted only in the rear yard of a residence, the ordinance states, and are to be constructed at least six feet from side and rear property lines.

During the day, chickens must be confined at all times to the pen, run, or coop. During the evening, chickens are to remain in the coop. All fecal material is to be removed regularly, per the ordinance, to avoid health hazards and offensive odors that extend beyond the owner’s property.

The city requires all chickens be treated humanely with adequate food and water, shelter, and veterinarian care; chickens are not to be killed or butchered in city limits, per the ordinance.

According to the ordinance, violations of the ordinance is considered a misdemeanor punishable by 6 months imprisonment and/or a $750 fine.