OKC Civic Affairs

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Urban agriculture proposals advance, but chickens are left behind

by William Crum Published: December 31, 2013
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The Oklahoma City Council on Tuesday rejected a proposal to allow chickens on residential lots in urban and many suburban neighborhoods.

Advocates said lifting restrictions on city chickens would help Oklahoma City catch up with trends favoring locally produced food and would help lower-income residents provide for themselves.

While rejecting the idea of urban chickens, at least for the moment, the council unanimously agreed to proposals intended to enhance other aspects of neighborhood gardening and urban farming.

The measures will clarify and update rules regarding:

• 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 — which would be allowed in backyards in many circumstances.

• Vegetable gardens, which would be allowed in front, side and back yards.

• Urban farms — managed for commercial purposes — and community gardens kept by groups of neighbors, which would have greater latitude in site selection and clearer rules with regard to upkeep.

The council approved Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer’s proposal to expand options for conserving rainwater, allowing up to two small rainwater containers in front yards in addition to back-yard rain barrels.

Chickens will remain limited to lots of at least one acre. Council members indicated they would be interested in exploring other options, such as a permit system.

Salyer said a small fee for a permit to keep back-yard chickens “is not an unreasonable burden.”

Mayor Mick Cornett said he thought a pilot program in parts of the city where chickens already are common would mesh well with Salyer’s idea of requiring permits.

As it happened, NBC News had a story Tuesday on problems elsewhere with owners who are sending urban chickens to local animal shelters because they no longer can care for them.


by William Crum
Reporter
OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman.
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