Council considers allowing chickens in Eagan backyards
Eagan may join a growing number of metro cities in adopting an ordinance that allows backyard chickens, thanks to the efforts of a few local chicken enthusiasts.
The issue was first brought to the City Council in June by a handful of residents who challenged the city’s current ordinance prohibiting chickens and other farm animals from non-agricultural areas.
Kim Bernard was among those residents to approach the council. She had been looking into raising chickens in her backyard and found, to her dismay, that the city prohibited such practices.
Bernard said she became interested in the hobby after visiting a family farm in Oregon where she fell in love with the birds.
“They are so hilarious and have such personalities,” she said.
The group’s call for change prompted the council on Sept. 11 to hash out a potential ordinance amendment that would enable Eagan residents to raise a small number of chickens in their backyards.
Council members agreed an ordinance should allow residents to keep up to five chickens in residential areas but should be prohibited from having roosters, or slaughtering animals in areas that are not zoned as agricultural.
Residents will be required to have proper fences to keep the birds within the property and “reasonably” match the exterior of the chicken coop to the home’s finish.
The proposal also requires chicken coops to have a 10-foot setback from property lines and a 25-foot setback from dwellings, under the proposal.
Residents are required to obtain a $50 permit, which can be revoked if the owner fails to comply with requirements of the ordinance or of the Homeowners’ Association, according to the proposal. Residents would also be required to have their property inspected to obtain a permit and a renewal.
“We can always change it later if we determine that an annual inspection is not needed for renewal,” Mayor Mike Maguire said at the Tuesday night meeting.
Chickens should not be allowed in homes or garages due to health concerns, council members agreed.
According to the University of Minnesota Extension, which studies agricultural issues, humans can contract bacterial and respiratory infections by keeping chickens in their living spaces. Though a common concern, there are no cases of Avian flu being transmitted from birds to humans in the United States, according to the U of M Extension.
All of these proposed requirements are consistent with ordinances in other cities that allow chickens in residential areas.
Although most neighboring cities don’t address coop space for each chicken, Council Member Paul Bakken suggested such a requirement should be included in the proposed amendment.
“We wouldn’t want to open it up to having a chicken jail like some commercial farms,” he said.
After consulting Nicholas Janssen, an Eagan chicken enthusiast, the council agreed to require a minimum of 2 square feet per bird in a coop and 5 square feet of run space per chicken.
Interest in backyard chickens has grown in recent years and enthusiasts say the birds provide numerous benefits such as organic eggs, fertilizer, and weed control.
To date, 14 Minnesota cities have adopted ordinances allowing small numbers of chickens in residential areas.
Though interest has swelled in recent years, only a few residents are raising the animals in those cities. In Bloomington, for instance, fewer than 10 chicken permits have been issued since 2011 when the ordinance was adopted, said Eagan city clerk Christina Scipioni.
Those cities that have allowed chickens in residential neighborhoods have reported few issues with the birds.
Most complaints include rooster noise, loose chickens, setback issues and chickens in garages, Scipioni said.
“The vast majority of property owners comply immediately before a citation is issued,” she said.
This isn’t the first ordinance change to allow new pets within Eagan. The council previously amended an ordinance to allow pet pigeons in residential backyards.
The proposed chicken ordinance is set to go before the City Council in early October for a vote.