Urban chicken farmers fight for law change

Urban chicken farmers fight for law change (Image 1)

Those in favor of urban chickens are collecting signatures, promoting a letter writing campaign and organizing a show of unity at Metro Nashville's next council meeting set for January 3.

An ordinance that would allow residents to have up to six domesticated hens, depending on property size, is on Metro Council's agenda for a second reading.

A similar measure failed to pass in 2009.

“We feel like we are going about it the right way,” Julie Simpson said.

Simpson is a member of Urban Chicken Advocates of Nashville, or UCAN.  The group is pushing for Metro Council's approval of Ordinance No. BL2011-47.

She owns four domesticated hens.  They live in a coop in her West Meade backyard.  She harvests eggs from the chickens to feed her family.  She also shares the eggs with her neighbors.

“We are getting as much support from council as we can,” she said. “We are trying to educate the public about what [the ordinance] is and what it is not.”

If the ordinance, as written, passes, it will require people who raise domesticated hens inside the city limits to obtain a $25 permit that they have to renew annually.

It also requires all chicken coops be at least 25 feet from any residential structure and 10 feet for any property line.

No roosters are allowed to be kept within the city limits and the hens can only be raised for non-commercial use.

“Primarily the responsibility will fall on Metro animal control and care department if we have a complaint we will go out and investigate it,” Director of Environmental Health Services Dr. Brent Hager said. “Probably we will get some complaints about odor from someone not cleaning up and so forth.”

Metro Animal Control would issue permits and respond to complaints about domesticated hens.

The department already handles complaints about chickens in the county.

According to Dr. Hager, over the past two years his department has had around 80 complaints.

He said the complaints mostly surround chickens that are running loose and noise complaints.

“The reality is we do not really know how many complaints we will be getting,” Dr. Hager said. “We are hoping the community will be policing itself if it passes.”

UCAN is selling yellow t-shirts it wants supporters to wear to the January 3 council meeting.

A number of supporters also plan to speak during the public comments session.

“We plan to educate the public,” Simpson said. “Even after the ordinance is passed, we plan to go out to church groups, neighborhood meetings and let people know if you want to do this it is not a light undertaking.”

Simpson said allowing urban chickens will help Nashville residents have a healthier sustainable source of food.

“I'm not relying on an egg that's mass produced,” she said. “I get a better product because I know what is going into them.”

UCAN has started a Facebook page with information about their efforts.

By Wednesday, it had more than 600 likes.

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