Explaining Chickens Resolution 3039
September 23, 2020
For those unfamiliar, Resolution 3039, an initiative to allow backyard chickens, will appear on this November's ballot. The proposed initiative would allow a maximum of six hens, no roosters, require a permit and limit coops to backyards only. In last week's Letters to the Editor, Shirley Seifert brought up some specific concerns regarding this ordinance and I would like to address these one by one.
1. The simplified phrasing of the ballot initiative is common practice in most elections. It would be impractical to include the entire resolution on the ballot, which is why it is publicly available on the City Council web page for review. Resolution No 3039 was drafted by the city attorney as an adaptation from the Billings city code regarding chickens, and this wording is what was approved by the City Council.
2. I did speak with T&R Trucking regarding the appropriateness of disposing chicken debris with household waste, and there were no concerns about this. Six chickens produce about as much waste as a single medium dog, and just like dog waste and cat litter, it is always a good idea to place any trash in bags to avoid it blowing away when the truck turns the dumpster over. But it would be a waste of chicken waste to throw it away because it makes for great fertilizer in the garden.
3. The third point seemed to be mostly about concerns regarding accidental exposure to chicken debris by people who have medical conditions. While some people certainly have allergies and sensitivities that would preclude them from owning chickens, there is no realistic reason why a neighbor's backyard chickens would pose a health risk any more than the numerous pigeons, robins and sparrows that inhabit all our backyards. I have spoken with several physicians regarding health concerns from chickens, and the risks are considered negligible--on par with that of cats or dogs.
4. Property value is a very important issue for homeowners. If we can look at cities that allow for chickens, like Billings or Missoula, their property values still remain high. Historically, municipalities that have adopted backyard chickens have not seen changes in real estate prices. And in the case of renters wanting chickens, if the landlord says no pets, that means no pets, just as it would with dogs or cats.
5. In preparation for this vote, I spoke with the Chief of Police regarding the potential for a larger workload, as that is a reasonable concern. I have also spoken with almost every police and animal control department in Montana that allows for chickens. They have all stated with certainty that they spend very little time enforcing their chicken code. For example, Miles City fields just three to six calls per year, and Billings, with a population ten times greater than our entire county, fields about 10 calls per year.
I have done a ton of research on this topic and would be happy to try to answer any question anyone has regarding backyard chickens. I will be set up in front of the Wheatgrass Arts & Gallery every Friday from 12 to 2 p.m. and you can always send your question to Peck Yes - A chicken campaign on Facebook.