Common in many parts of town but outlaws on most residential lots, chickens could soon be clucking openly in backyards around Oklahoma City.
The Planning Commission agreed unanimously Thursday to broad changes intended to bring city ordinances in line with trends toward locally grown food and an urban back-to-the-land ethic.
Under the proposals, fresh eggs could become part of the neighborhood equation without regard to housing density. Now, chickens are forbidden on lots smaller than an acre.
Embracing the new urban agriculture is a step toward making fresh, wholesome food available to residents who lack access to full-service grocery stores, said Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid.
Northeast Oklahoma City has been characterized as a “food desert” because so many grocery stores have moved out. Residents must buy at convenience stores or travel long distances to shop.
“It's not the role of government to tell us we can't grow our own food on our own property,” said Shadid, who attended the meeting and sat with supporters of the changes.
Commission members asked only minor questions about rules for compost and rainwater barrels.
The proposals would clarify and update ordinances regarding:
• Chickens, which would be allowed in backyards in residential settings without regard to lot size. Six hens would be the limit — no roosters — and a well-kept coop and yard would be required.
• Compost, which would be limited to grass, leaves, banana peels and the like. Waste such as dairy products and meat bones would still be considered trash and would be forbidden.
• Greenhouses and “hoop” houses — structures designed to extend the growing season — would be allowed in backyards in many circumstances.
• Vegetable gardens, which would be allowed in front, side and backyards.
• Urban farms — managed for commercial purposes — and community gardens kept by groups of neighbors, which would have greater latitude in siting and clearer rules with regard to upkeep.
Planner Ken Bryan said the local food movement has been gaining in popularity across the country. He showed commissioners a list of more than a dozen cities that already have updated ordinances to reflect the trend.