Suburban angst defeated the latest effort to give hens a home in the city.
The Oklahoma City Council voted 5-4 on Tuesday against a proposal to relax rules on who can keep chickens.
Opposition came from outside the districts where walkable neighborhoods, locally sourced food and backyard gardens are trending and transforming the city.
Ward 5 Councilman David Greenwell suggested advocates — if they’re willing to work at it — eventually could prevail.
“My estimate is this will not go away so easily,” Greenwell said.
Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid, Ward 4 Councilman Pete White and Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer put together the latest plan for backyard egg-layers. It followed the Dec. 31 defeat of a proposal that had been part of a broad measure to promote urban agriculture.
Under the ordinance defeated Tuesday, residents who wanted to keep chickens would have had to apply for a permit and pay $25.
Neighbors would have been notified — a key change from the earlier proposal — and given a chance to comment.
The city’s board of adjustment would have voted on permits after hearing from neighbors.
Proposed limits included:
•A prohibition on roosters and outdoor slaughter.
•Sufficient shelter and yard space, and cleanliness standards.
•Enclosures sufficient to keep chickens from roaming into neighbors’ yards.
•No more than six hens to a yard.
Current rules limiting chickens to lots of at least one acre, far larger than typical urban residential lots, will remain in effect.
Despite current restrictions, advocates say chickens are common in parts of Oklahoma City.
Shadid, White, Salyer and Mayor Mick Cornett voted for giving more residents the option of keeping chickens.
Ward 1 Councilman James Greiner, Ward 3 Councilman Larry McAtee, Greenwell, Ward 7 Councilman John Pettis and Ward 8 Councilman Pat Ryan voted against the proposal. All five represent areas with significant suburban populations, and several said neighborhood associations were strongly opposed.
Cornett said the neighborhoods represented by Shadid and Salyer generally are thought of as the city’s urban wards, and agreed with Greenwell that the vote reflected an urban-suburban divide.
Cornett has suggested a pilot program in neighborhoods most open to having chickens might be the way to introduce the idea.
Advocates maintain chickens are clean and quiet, eat bugs, and produce soil-enhancing waste along with fresh eggs.
Cornett thought that message failed to find enough of an audience.
“The more information you get, I think, the more at ease you get with the idea,” Cornett said.
Greenwell said he thought advocates “might help their cause if they held neighborhood meetings throughout the city to explain the proposal.”
He said neighborhood meetings he’s attended so far produced plenty of negative feedback.
“People were concerned owners wouldn’t keep up the chickens in the manner they would like to see,” Greenwell said.
White grew up in the city and now lives in rural southeast Oklahoma City. He’s been a consistent proponent of giving chickens a home in the city.
White noted advocates far outnumbered opponents in testimony at council meetings, and in the telephone calls and letters.
The latest compromise with provisions for neighborhood notification was “well thought out and accepted,” he said. “I really was surprised it failed, to be honest with you.”
Georgie Rasco, executive director of the Neighborhood Alliance, said the Neighborhood Alliance remained neutral throughout the debate.
Opposition arose from the grassroots as neighbors hashed out their concerns, sometimes block by block, she said.
“I can’t imagine that the issue is dead,” Rasco said.
HOW THEY VOTED
The Oklahoma City Council defeated, by a vote of 5-4, a proposal to relax restrictions on raising chickens in the city.
•James Greiner, Ward 1
•Larry McAtee, Ward 3
•David Greenwell, Ward 5
•John Pettis, Ward 7
•Pat Ryan, Ward 8
Votes in favor
•Ed Shadid, Ward 2
•Pete White, Ward 4
•Meg Salyer, Ward 6
•Mayor Mick Cornett