NORMAN — Residents who want fresh eggs now have the option of raising laying hens.
City council members Tuesday eased restrictions on backyard chickens, allowing up to four per household, as long as they're kept in fully enclosed coops. The coops must be at least 25 feet from a neighboring house and provide a minimum of four square feet per chicken.
Formerly, chicken enclosures had to be at least 100 feet from the nearest residence and 25 feet from the nearest property line, restrictions that effectively banned chickens in all but agricultural zones or large residential estates.
The council voted 9-1 to change requirements to allow for urban fowl. Councilman Roger Gallagher dissented.
Keeping backyard chickens is “ringing the dinner bell for predators,” such as raccoons and opossums, Gallagher said. “I just can't see it in my neighborhood.”
Jacy Crosbie said she worried about the smell of chicken droppings, “which gets into the soil and you can't get rid of it. With hot weather and our winds that will carry the smell, it isn't fair to those who choose to live in the city.”
Planning Director Susan Connors said a new ordinance was developed at the request of more than 120 residents who expressed a desire to raise laying hens.
“We restricted it to four hens per household so they wouldn't be a nuisance,” she said.
To further decrease the risk of nuisance, she said, the ordinance prohibits roosters and slaughtering the animals on the property.
Ed Kessler said he has kept chickens in his backyard for years with no complaints from neighbors.
“The communities are losing their attachment to the land. It's a very trivial matter to have a few chickens in your backyard. It's educational, provides fresh eggs and an occasional chicken in the pot,” he said.
People who want to own chickens take care to provide them with what they need so they are safe, healthy and not a nuisance to anyone, chicken owner Kim Frakes said.
“Our chickens have names. They are family pets. They provide a benefit to the community,” she said.
Councilman Tom Kovach said the idea of allowing urban chickens wasn't “plucked” out of the air.
“This has been done all across the country. It's a simple concept. These are people wanting to do something for their families in their own backyards. We're not putting a farm in everyone's backyard,” Kovach said.