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Support grows for backyard chickens in Oklahoma City

Oklahoma City residents recently have been lobbying the city council to draft and pass an ordinance allowing chickens in residential backyards. Some council members have voiced support for at least a trial program.
BY MICHAEL KIMBALL Published: June 27, 2011

The weathered faces of illegal Oklahoma City residents Eggy and Hermione reveal no signs of stress as they scrounge for food. But they could lose everything if local authorities learn of their existence in the converted tree house they share as a home.

Eggy and Hermione are chickens living “illegally” in the backyard of a northwest Oklahoma City home.

The fowl belong to a family who has lived in Oklahoma City for more than a decade. An owner, who declined to be named for fear of repercussions from city residents against chickens or city inspectors, hopes someday her productive family pets can gain legal status.

“They're quieter than dogs and don't make as big of a mess. They don't smell. They make great pets,” she said. “It's great for kids and grown-ups to have a connection to where their food comes from. Food doesn't always come in a Styrofoam container from Walmart.”

Supporters lobby council

Like-minded supporters of backyard chickens have lobbied the Oklahoma City Council in recent weeks to consider an ordinance allowing fowl in backyards. Supporters value the chickens as pets, as a source of eggs and of biological fertilizer for compost.

Chickens only are permitted in Oklahoma City now if held on property of at least an acre, said Bob Tener, director of the city's Development Services division. He said code enforcers typically get less than half a dozen complaints per year about people raising chickens in unauthorized areas.

Keeping chickens and other minor violations of city code carry a maximum fine of $500.

Ward 2 Councilman Ed Shadid and Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer have voiced tentative support for at least a pilot program that would designate a neighborhood or area as a test where chickens are legalized and the consequences studied. But, Salyer said, she thinks more critics of the plan could surface if the movement gains more traction.

“I know there are people in my ward who have chickens, but it's a divisive issue,” Salyer said. “Probably pretty evenly divided.”

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