Change would allow chickens; Council to hear proposed amendment

Columbus city councilmen will consider amending the city’s animal ordinance to allow residents to have backyard chickens.

The council will hear a proposed amendment recommended by a citizen committee when it meets at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Columbus City Hall.

That proposal, according to Councilman Tom Dell, would:

  • Limit the number of chickens allowed in backyard coops to six hens.
  • Ban roosters
  • Provide parameters for code enforcement of coops and treatment of the chickens, among other restrictions.

Tuesday night’s discussion comes after months of work by a 10-member citizen committee that volunteered to sit down with Dell and councilwoman Laurie Booher in a series of meetings to craft a compromise. The citizens included five people who had expressed pro-backyard chicken sentiments, and five who had expressed anti-backyard chicken opinions.

The committee was tasked with determining the proper oversight and limitations to backyard chicken raising, including addressing health issues and whether a limit should be set on the number of chickens allowed at a city residence.

Dell said the citizens voted 6-4 for the amendment that is being considered Tuesday. Dell or Booher did not vote, the councilman said.

In the process of coming up with the amendment, the committee learned more about chicken keeping from agriculture experts from Ivy Tech Community College Columbus, and explored parameters of how much code enforcement might be required if chickens were allowed, Dell said.

As proposed, the amendment would not require city residents keeping chickens to have permits, but would provide standards that would have to be maintained to avoid facing fines or other penalties, Dell said. Code enforcement could expand to even removing chickens from properties where the animals are in danger because of compliance issues, he said.

A divided Columbus City Council tabled a final vote on banning chickens in the city limits last July, after 70 people attended a meeting about the ordinance.

The issue has been before the council for more than a year, beginning when the city’s code enforcement officer cited two Columbus families in spring 2015 for violating a local ordinance banning chickens within the city limits.

In August 2015, the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals overruled the decision, allowing city residents to keep chickens as pets until the matter could be studied further and an ordinance drafted about regulating chickens and other farm animals within the city limits.

The council initially voted to ban chickens in June, with Councilwomen Elaine Wagner and Booher voting against the ban. The council then tabled the second reading of the ordinance and asked for the formation of the citizen committee, which has been meeting since the summer.

If you go

What: Columbus City Council

When: 6 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Columbus City Hall council chambers

On the agenda: Consideration of an amendment to the city’s animal ordinance to allow and regulate backyard chickens within the city limits.

Author photo
Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.