A proposed ordinance that would make backyard chickens legal on quarter-acre lots throughout Columbus received a negative assessment from the city’s special enforcement manager on Tuesday.
Drale Short, who oversees the enforcement of laws pertaining to animal control and other environmental issues, made a presentation to Columbus Council pointing out the pros and cons of urban chicken farming.
Chickens are good for eggs, soil fertilization and pest control, but they can also be a health and safety hazard, Short said. The health concerns she mentioned included bacterial diseases such as Salmonella and Campylobacter; a respiratory disease called Histoplasmosis and Avian Influenza. Chickens also attract rodents and predators such as foxes, snakes and coyotes, she said.
Short said free range chickens are already a problem ens are already a problem in the Wynnton area on Baldwin Street, the Beallwood area on Alexander Street, the Edgewood area on Alta Vista Drive, the Whitesville Road area, the Fulton Road area, Bibb City and Crystal Valley Mobile Home Park.
Chickens also make a lot of noise, she said.
If chickens were allowed on quarter-acre lots, the city would need to hire two additional full-time field animal control officers, at a cost of $63,648. The amendment would also require the purchase of two additional field trucks, costing $50,000 each.
In the end, she recommended that Columbus Council make no changes to the ordinance, which currently allows chickens to be kept on any lot two or more acres in size.
The amendment was proposed in February by a Facebook group called Valley Homesteaders, which has been promoting the benefits of backyard chickens in the community. Members of the group appeared to be absent from Tuesday’s meeting.
In February, City Councilors Glenn Davis and Bruce Huff expressed interest in exploring the backyard chicken proposal, and the council asked city officials to research the issue. But on Tuesday Huff said he had received several calls from constituents concerned about the proposed changes. And Davis made no comments.
“I don’t have anything against the concept, but I just think you need to have at least an acre,” Huff said.
Councilor Skip Henderson said it’s important for council to consider proposals brought forth by citizens, but he appreciated the information that Short presented.
“I can see no situation where I would think amending that ordinance is a good idea,” he said. “I completely understand people and the movement to try grow their own food and have healthier options, but to me it just seems counter-intuitive that we would amend an ordinance that would possibly have a negative impact on the majority.”