Wednesday, August 15, 2012

BREDA — An ordinance that allows Breda residents to raise chickens at home is ruffling feathers within the town, but it narrowly survived on Monday its first of three votes the City Council must take for it to become law.

Breda is the third Carroll area city to consider the backyard birds after a unanimous vote in Lake City welcomed chickens last month. A similar ordinance was defeated in Lake View as the trend draws continued attention statewide.

In a 3-2 vote Monday night, Breda City Council members passed the proposed ordinance, which allows the birds — up to six hens on a single-family plot — within city limits.

The ordinance, modeled largely after the one adopted by Lake City, restricts birds to an entirely enclosed facility and bans roosters. Residents apply for a free license at City Hall.

Elsewhere, the so-called “urban chicken movement” has already cast its wings over other parts of the state. In 2010 Cedar Rapids joined Des Moines, where residents have long been allowed up to about 30 chickens, in permitting the birds. Iowa City is mulling the issue again this year after defeating a proposal similar to Lake City’s two years ago.

But Breda’s chickens are still far from a guarantee. For more than 15 minutes, five city councilmen deliberated over noise, odor and weather concerns before adding a clause that requires bird to remain inside an enclosure — fences are insufficient, they decided — and including a fine for failing to register the birds with the city.

“I don’t see any reason why they can’t have six chickens in town,” said Breda City Councilman Mike Schwabe, who voted in favor of the ordinance. “It would be no more of a nuisance than a dog that barks.”

Breda Mayor Jim Ulveling said he will be neutral on the proposal but called it a very minor issue. There are enough controls built into the ordinances to ensure that chickens won’t disturb residents, he said.

“It’s pretty self-inclusive,” he said. “Chickens aren’t going to be running all over town. They are going to be out of sight.”

Still, he’s received at least two complaints from residents who fear the birds will be a nuisance, although neither cited any specific arguments against their permission — just that they don’t want them around.

Mayor Ulveling said his only concern is that allowing chickens within city limits may open the door to requests for more exotic animals, like snakes, which he would entirely oppose.

Breda’s current law bans birds — defined as ostriches, rheas, emus and poultry in its Animal Protection and Control ordinance — along with the ownership of other livestock such as cows, pigs, sheep and goats.

Under the new ordinance, single families can raise up to six female birds on their property. After receiving a free license through the city, the birds must be housed in an enclosed henhouse 25 feet away from any residential dwelling, church, school or business — measures included to limit the spread of odor and noise.

Residents who fail to register with the city will be fined $25 — the same penalty for an unlicensed dog.

A Breda couple proposed the idea in June because they wanted to use chickens to teach their two children household responsibility.

David Ladwig purchased three chickens from Bomgaars in April, and then three more, after urging from his mother-in-law. He presented the idea to the City Council in June after he learned they were outlawed from city limits and learned of the efforts in Lake City and Lake View.

“It’s more or less teaching them,” David said.  “It’s going to help with chores, collecting the eggs, help them clean it out, make sure they have water and feed.”

The Ladwigs currently house the birds in their basement, but David is building a 6-by-12-foot wooden henhouse for the backyard. He said he has talked with his neighbors, none of which have voiced concern about the birds, he said.

Carroll Police Chief Jeff Cayler said he does not anticipate the chickens gaining the same traction in Carroll since a larger size city doesn’t lend itself well to raising animals.

“I’ve been chief 271/2 years, and no one has requested an ordinance in that time frame,” he said. “That’s a fairly good indicator that it’s not going to come up. I don’t see it as an issue of most of the people in Carroll would care about.”

City code was revised about three years ago when a Carroll resident complained that a neighbor had geese, ducks and turkeys. It now explicitly lists the prohibited animals.

Since then, the only other violation occurred last week when Cayler expelled about five chickens from a Carroll backyard. He learned of the birds from a neighbor during a lunch break at Subway.

The resident was unaware of the city code violation and complied to remove the birds. No ticket was issued, Cayler said.

There are certain designated areas where people can raise agricultural animals, he said.

“People who want to do that choose to live in the country where zoning allows for it and people who don’t want to live in the city,” he said.

The Breda City Council will revisit the chicken ordinance at its next meeting on Sept. 10 when it will face a second vote by councilmen.