Our grassroots community group, 4 Chesapeake Hens, has been campaigning for more egalitarian ordinances concerning the keeping of laying hens in the city. The current laws state that one's property must be zoned agricultural to have chickens. The only exception is property is zoned "RE-1," a "residential estate" of three acres or more. Then owners can have up to four hens in a pen as family pets. Currently the matter is before the Planning Commission, which has researched a proposed ordinance. Members of our group are not satisfied with the proposed changes; we have published and distributed our own vision for the role of chickens in our community in a document called "A Case for Chesapeake Hens."
Andrea Margrave, our group's political leadership, sent Beverly Hanson, the Planning Department's Office Coordinator, the following message today. It outlines most of our objections:
Dear Ms. Hanson:
I was delighted to read tonight the release of
the Planning Commission's draft of the new ordinance regarding backyard
laying hens. Our group has worked hard to get this process done in a
professional and speedy manner, and the response from the City on all
fronts has been astoundingly fast. Thank you.
My concern this evening is twofold: First, I question the inclusion
of requiring a 6 foot privacy fence. The ordinance already mandates an
appropriate pen or enclosure for the hens, one which necessarily would
include a top to prevent escape and to deter predators. The reason for
the fence requirement would surely not be for keeping the hens enclosed
then. Perhaps it was added to prevent visual contact with the hens? I
would venture to say that chickens are no more unsightly than a dog,
cat, rabbit, or other family pet. I sincerely question the validity of
this addition and formally request its removal.
Now, my second concern has to do with a conflict I see arising
between the limiting of hen ownership to only 4 per household and the
City's own Code making it a Class 3 misdemeanor to purchase or sell less
than 6 chicks at a time. How are we to abide by this ordinance if it
is self-defeating? I would like to see it changed to reflect a more
reasonable number of 6 - 10 in order to remain in compliance. Link to
the conflicting ordinance below:
Thank you once again for your time and diligence in serving the citizenry of Chesapeake.
4 Chesapeake Hens
Well-written letter, Andrea! Let's hope your logic prevails in this matter.
Update: On November 20, Chesapeake City Council voted 6-3 to allow hens with certain restriction in residential areas.