Pet buff orpington hen looking at the camera in a family garden.

Chickens may be staying home to roost, if a trio of City Council members succeed. Public Domain Photo

By Tim Farley, The Oklahoma City Sentinel

Only one Oklahoma City resident was squawking Tuesday when three council members introduced a measure that would change the backyard chicken ordinance.

However, the noise level might increase in about 30 days after the planning commission hears the merits of the issue and the council conducts a public hearing in November.

The ordinance was requested by councilmembers JoBeth Hamon, Nikki Nice and Bradley Carter.

Hamon described the proposal as “an issue of well-being for our residents” since it’s related to food security for many families. Currently, the city allows residents to raise six chickens on an acre or more. However, the three councilmembers believe that requirement should be changed to six chickens on less than an acre of land.

Resident Carol Kincade expressed her opposition to the proposed measure for several reasons.

“I grew up on a farm and I know what it takes to raise chickens,” she said.

Kincade told the council the smell created by chickens, rodents, predators and an increased noise level are a few of the problems backyard chickens will create if people are allowed to raise chickens on less than an acre.

“What happens when people get tired of raising them? These are high-maintenance animals,” she said.

Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell said residents in his neighborhood have tried to raise chickens, which created problems for code enforcement officers.

“It just creates additional issues for them to address,” he said.

Greenwell noted that covenants in a homeowner’s association would supersede the proposed ordinance. The proposal prohibits roosters, requires the animals to be sheltered in a coop and not inside a dwelling, requires coops to have at least four square feet of space per animal and requires coops to be located at least five feet from side property lines and 10 feet from rear property lines.

The measure would also require the coops to be at least 30 feet from any adjacent structure and require the chickens or quail to be kept inside from dusk until dawn.

In addition, the proposal would require an unpaved outdoor roaming area of at least eight feet per animal and prohibit the outdoor slaughter of animals.

This same proposal was a hot topic with the council in late 2013 and early 2014 but was rejected by a 7-2 vote.

Representatives from the Oklahoma State University Agriculture Extension Service said in April 2020 that backyard poultry producers may be able to offset increased prices for eggs as the nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Donald Stotts, a reporter with OSU’s Agricultural Communications Services wrote in 2020 that, “People who raise their own chickens already appreciate that they have easy access to a healthy, protein-rich food source that can be used in a wide range of dishes. Lately they have also been able to help with social distancing measures by cutting down on trips to the grocery store.

“However, backyard poultry operators still need to practice best management protocols to ensure their flocks are healthy and remain productive,” Stotts wrote.

Stotts recommends for confined chickens, that owners make sure their fencing and runs are in good condition to keep out predators. The run area also should be built up to ensure adequate drainage. The worst environment for chickens is one that is wet and muddy, he said.

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