City chickens could come to Kent

Ryan Young

Chickens have been showing up everywhere lately. Not fried, packaged or otherwise mechanically separated, but rather, alive and next-door.

In an ever-growing list of U.S. cities, the ownership of “urban hens” has become legal for local residents, even if they don’t have a farm on which to put them. ?

Major national cities are getting in on this trend, setting up coops in backyards all over California, New York, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and parts of Ohio.

Recently in Kent, the Citizens League for Urban Chickens (CLUCKent) has grabbed the attention of many community members with its proposed amendment to city ordinance 505.19. The proposal would allow residents to own up to six hens for noncommercial use.

Kent’s current ordinance requires a person to have at least two acres of land in order to own farm animals. However, if the proposal passes, backyard coops could be as common as backyard gardens. ?

In a letter to the Kent Board of Health, CLUCKent members Rick Hawksley, Bethany Snyder and Laurel Hurst, who also drafted the poultry-based legislature, made a case for the proposal. “Historically, hens have been raised in Kent with very few complaints, and indeed are already being raised here,” said the letter. “Simple, common sense regulations are all that are needed to assure that it is done in a neighborly fashion.”?

Those regulations stipulate that all owners must register with the Kent Board of Health and pay a one time $15 fee to aid in the department’s inspection of local coops.

“Our goal is to make sure everything in the ordinance is adhered to,” John Ferlito, Kent Board of Health commissioner, said. “If that happens, there shouldn’t be a health concern.” ?

The proposal also states, “Any enclosed chicken pen shall consist of sturdy wire or wooden fencing. The pen must be covered with wire, aviary netting or solid roofing.”

Sanitary concerns are also among the most common for the Board of Health as well as potential owners and their neighbors. Essentially, the ordinance calls for the pens to be cleaned regularly so the smell of chicken waste is only perceptible on the owner’s property. Roosters are banned because of unwanted noise associated with their presence. ?

Elizabeth Ryan, a member of the Kent Natural Foods Co-op, thought it was unusual Kent didn’t allow hens when she moved to the area. She said her experience with chickens on her Stow property has been rewarding for her whole family.

“My kids have grown up with some of my animals,” said Ryan. “We know where they came from and that’s important,” she continued. ?

Locally, Tractor Supply Company in Ravenna is a good bet for picking up a few chickens in the spring. However, Ryan recommends searching the myriad of mail order chicken websites that have popped up recently.

“Sometimes, the auctions get you a better price,” she said.

Perhaps the biggest testament to the noninvasive nature of urban chicken ownership is stories of local renegades who have already owned chickens in residential areas below the radar.

Brimfield farmer and now legal owner of chickens (he has enough property to not be affected by the chicken ban), Eric Walter, says he has been raising chickens for a long time. ?

“When I lived in Brady Lake, I had some (chickens),” he said. “No one knew then. It‘s not hard to keep them clean and relatively quiet.” ?

In addition to being a good source of natural food, whether for an omelet or extra-crispy chicken dinner, urban chickens might just help Americans right the fowl economy. ?

According to Steven L. Hopp, co-author of “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle,” owning a few chickens is a step in the right direction toward lessening the nation’s foreign oil dependency, since locally raised chickens don’t have to be transported. ?

“If every U.S. citizen ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week,” Hopp writes.

“Small changes in buying habits can make big differences. Becoming a less energy-dependent nation may just need to start with a good breakfast.” ?

Kent City Council has yet to accept or deny the CLUCKent proposal. ?

Contact Ryan Young at [email protected].