Chickens in the city?

Ashleigh Blasey and her dog Duchess, alongside Blasey’s backyard garden at 414 7th Ave. S. last week. Blasey said that having a half dozen chickens could be beneficial to the garden.

The clucking of hen chickens might soon be heard in Princeton city backyards if the city approves resident Ashleigh Blasey’s request.

Blasey, of 414 7th Ave. S., is asking the city council to change the city’s zoning regulations to allow residents to keep chickens.

The council, after hearing Blasey out last Thursday, directed City Zoning Administrator Carie Fuhrman to draft a possible ordinance that would allow chickens. Fuhrman is to then send the draft to the city planning commission, which could then make recommendations to the council for possible action.

The city’s present zoning ordinance allows for the raising of non domestic livestock only in the city’s A-1 and A-2 agricultural zones.

The ordinance defines non domestic animals as “animals kept outside the home for purposes of food or pleasure, such as livestock (cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, chickens), bees, birds (such as falcons, and wild scrub pigeons), and similar animals.”

Fuhrman gave the council an excerpt from a League of Minnesota Cities story on how “urban chickens are becoming a more common issue in cities across the state and country,” and that the “urban chicken movement is often linked to the increased desire by people to be closer to their food sources.”

Fuhrman pointed out how Minnesota has no state laws addressing urban chickens or their keeping in cities. Therefore, it is up to the council to decide if it wants to regulate that. It can choose to either “allow, allow with permit, or prohibit,” and it can do that through a general farm animal ordinance or by passing an ordinance specific to keeping chickens, Fuhrman said.

Blasey told the council about how she grew up across from  her grandparents Stonewall Jackson Kilby and Phyllis Kilby in the state of Virginia and how the Kilbys had a flock of about 10 chickens, a few rabbits and pasture-raised beef.

“My grandfather taught me that even though the bunnies and cows would eventually be our food someday, that we could give them the best quality of life in the meantime,” Blasey said.

Blasey explained that she wants to have chickens because she believes they would:

n Reduce her household food waste and would eat ticks, slugs, grubs, worms, caterpillars, baby mice, small snakes and small rodents, weed seeds and many more nuisances.

n Be an important teaching tool for learning where food comes from.

n Provide a high quality manure for fertilizer, and would produce eggs.

Blasey cited a Mother Earth News Magazine study that aimed to debunk “myths” about small numbers of chickens in backyards, such as on noise, odor, unsightliness, and attraction of predators, pests and rodents.

Blasey is asking to have a maximum of six hens and recommended that the city prohibit more than six per space of just under a quarter acre, and that there be no roosters. Other restrictions she recommended were:

n Food be kept in an enclosed predator-proof container.

n All hens must be kept in a chicken run or fenced-in area that prohibits the hens from getting onto roadways and neighboring properties.

n An annual $35 permit fee.

n Coops must be kept clean and odor free.

n Coops must allow four square feet per bird.

n No slaughter of hens shall be allowed in residential areas.

n Hens must be housed in their living quarters at night.

Blasey also supplied copies of ordinances from some other cities on regulating chickens, including Zimmerman, Otsego, Monticello, West St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Some of the elements in the ordinances are distances between coops and houses, containing on property, a permit and in some cases permission from neighbors.


Council response

Council member Thom Walker suggested the city could try allowing the keeping of chickens as a pilot program before passing an ordinance.

Mayor Jeremy Riddle suggested drafting an ordinance to consider and gauge the reaction before taking action. If the response was 90 to 1 against, then the city wouldn’t bother giving approval, he said.

Blasey said her neighbors have said they would have no problem with chickens at her place.

Princeton city attorney Dick Schieffer commented that the Milaca City Council recently received a similar request and that it instructed him to draft a proposed ordinance to send to the Milaca city planning commission. Milaca is conducting a July 9 public hearing on a request by a Milaca city resident to allow chickens on all residentially-zoned properties except for multifamily in Milaca city limits.

Princeton council member Victoria Hallin said she would like to check with cities that allow chickens in residential areas to hear if they have received complaints.

Police Chief Brian Payne said at the council meeting that he has no problems with Blasey’s request, but that if a chicken was on the loose, it might be difficult to identify who they belong to.

Maybe they could have a wrist band, Blasey responded.

Interest in having a small number of chickens at a residence in the city may likely extend beyond Blasey. Melvin Lindquist, who has moved into the city, told Riddle after the meeting that he would also like to be able to have chickens at his residence.