Kent City Council legalizes backyard chickens

Garrett Ferrara, Ward 1 member of the Kent City Council, talks about the urban chicken law in Kent.

Kent City Council unanimously passed an ordinance approving residents the ownership of backyard chickens.

According to the Food Policy Research Center at the University of Minnesota, the keeping of backyard poultry is defined as the care of a small flock of domesticated poultry, usually between one and 30 birds, for non-commercial and non-processing purposes.

The council’s new ordinance allows the keeping of up to six chickens under several guidelines.

Residents must only own hens. The keeping of  roosters, chicks, other poultry or fowl are prohibited.

Residents do not have to obtain a permit, but the chicken coops must be must have a minimum of 30 feet setback from the rear property line, and a ten feet setback from the side property line.

Previously, the city’s code only allowed residents with two acres of land and a permit to own chickens.

The new code no longer requires residents to have a permit or any set number of acres.



Gwen Rosenberg, City Council-at-large member,  said she proposed the ordinance to change the previous policy because she believed it was time for a revote.

“I think over the past seven or eight years since the last time it came up, there was a general shift in interest in our city population,” said Rosenberg. “I think that this ordinance reflects it.”

The City Council received a lot of inquiries and emails from residents about the ordinance once it was set to appear on the agenda.

“They wanted to weigh in and voice their support for it,” Rosenberg said. “There were also a lot of people who didn’t want them but wanted people to be allowed to have them.”

Garret Ferrara, Ward Council member, said he took an informal poll and found that 50 percent of residents interviewed were in favor and 50 percent were not.

“I figure that if 50 percent of the people say it’s worth it, then let’s give it a try,” Ferrara said.

The council said residents in opposition of the ordinance are concerned about pests and odor within neighborhoods.

“It’s the chicken waste also and the vermin that could be attracted because of the chickens,” Ferrara said. “It’s the concern of how close it is to your neighbors.”

He said the code is a self-policing mechanism.

“Not having to have a permit, it’s going to be complaint driven,” Ferrara said.

The council carefully considered the possibility of pest and rodent attraction, and requires residents to protect coops with roof covers and predator and rodent resistant.

“The reason for the restrictions is just to make sure everyone’s quality of life is maintained. If you’ve got neighbors that are  of living next door to someone who wants chickens, that everybody maintains the same quality of life and the property values aren’t diminished by it.”

Ferrara said he believes residents in favor of backyard chickens see it a trend.

“Individuals who want them seem to want that sustainable lifestyle, for lack of a better term, the organic lifestyle,” Ferrara said. “The farm to table type of concept, the advocates have talked about how it educates their children and gives them an idea of what the food chain is.”


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