CLUCKent members not playing chicken

Ryan Young

Chickens have been showing up everywhere lately. Not fried, packaged or otherwise mechanically separated, but rather, alive and right 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 to put them on. ?

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.

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

No Kent City Council members have voted to consider the proposal; however, the issue is not on the agenda for any upcoming meetings.

Kent’s current ordinance states that a person must have at least 2 acres of land to own farm animals. However, if the proposal is passed, 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.

John Ferlito, Kent Board of Health’s health manager, said the board would personally inspect each coop.

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

The proposal also stated, “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 even the neighbors of owners. Essentially, the ordinance calls for pens to be cleaned regularly so the smell of chicken waste is only perceptible on the owner’s property.

Roosters are banned because of the unwanted noise associated with their presence in a city setting. ?

Elizabeth Ryan, a member of the Kent Natural Food Co-op, thought it was unusual when she moved to the area that Kent didn’t allow hens. She said that 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.”

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

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

Perhaps the biggest testaments to the noninvasive nature of urban hen ownership are the stories of local renegades who have already owned chickens in residential areas below the radar.

Brimfield farmer and now-legal owner of chickens (he’s got enough property to not be affected by the chicken ban), Eric Walter, said 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.”

Contact Ryan Young at [email protected].