Council hatches plan to allow chickens

Egg-lovers' right to keep hens in their enclosed backyard moved a little closer to fruition Tuesday.

Currently, the city allows chickens to be housed if they are 150 feet away from a residence, which the City Council was told is close to impossible.

The council voted 6-1, with Bob Archibeque in dissent, to approve a second reading to allow chickens in back yards without the 150-foot requirement.

Only one resident attended the council's public hearing on Tuesday.

Edmond Tyler said there are residents who are opposed, while many others want to have the opportunity to house chickens.

Tyler also wanted to know if there was any current ordinance or regulation in place that would prevent homeowners from having chickens.

Planning and Building Director Kirsten Sackett explained to him the 150-foot requirement currently in place.

"Let's give it a try," Tyler said. "I think a lot of people would get a lot of value by (this)."

The proposal that city staff is supporting would allow six female chickens per residence, and the henhouses would be required to be set back at least 10 feet from other residences.

Cortez Animal Control Officer Lari Ann Pope said there are already residences housing chickens even though they are technically illegal.

She said the only time she acts is where there is a complaint filed, and added a lot of the complaints involve roosters crowing at 3 a.m.

"If someone complains about chickens, then I do my job," she said.

Council member Karen Sheek wanted to know what the issues were if certain residents already had the chickens.

Pope said in some cases chickens would escape the enclosed structure and be killed by dogs.

Pope said the 150-foot requirement would prevent almost all homeowners from legally having chickens if this was their desire.

Council member Matt Keefauver said this item has been discussed for about 10 months, and added he has not seen much feedback either way.

However, Archibeque said not one person he has talked to was in favor of allowing chickens to anyone wanting them.

He also questioned whether it would hurt homeowners' property values if a prospective home buyer knew that the next door neighbor had chickens.

Keefauver mentioned the support given at three of the four Heart and Soul block parties the city held last year to receive input of the 53 people who filled out surveys on this topic, 42 were in favor of adopting chicken regulations in Cortez while 11 opposed the idea.

Sheek said the council could always come back at a later date to revisit the issue if problems began to surface.

The council will vote one final time on this issue at its next meeting on March 26.

michaelm@cortezjournal.com