Every few years, it seems as though local city councils prepare to re-open the surprisingly heated discussion of whether to allow backyard chickens in residential areas. In 2018, it was Rogers’ turn, 2015 resulted in a petition from St. Michael residents, and Albertville gave it a go in 2012.
And again, just a few months ago in March, the Champlin City Council heard from residents advocating for the allowance of pet chickens. Regardless, the cities still do not allow pet poultry.
Last summer, Wright County had to issue a statement regarding the growing number of hobby farms and chicken coops in the area, as the rules surrounding what is and is not allowed within different jurisdictions are often hazy when it comes to the topic.
According to the release, much of the confusion from residents comes from the definition of a feedlot, which is required in areas where chickens would roam and thus are classified differently. Wright County Feedlot Program Administrator Tracy Janikula said that the easiest way to avoid being in violation is to reach out and ask questions.
“We want people to know what the regulations are before they decide to start a farm not knowing that they aren’t in compliance,” Janikula said in the release. “To some, these regulations may seem a bit confusing, but we encourage people to contact us so they know in advance whether or not they will be in compliance rather than finding out later that they’re not in compliance and have to shut down.”
Proximity to property lines is also one of the biggest complaints when it comes to chickens.
For example, a 2017 community survey completed in Champlin determined that a majority of residents were against allowing backyard chickens, ultimately deterring the Champlin City Council from re-opening the discussion this March.
Janikula shared the same sentiment of prioritizing neighborhood courtesy, and clarified that the problem isn’t so much the chickens, but the fact that many hobby farms don’t have enough land or resources to adequately support them.
“There are farms less than four acres that can have poultry, but those come with several restrictions,” said Janikula in the release. “If you have livestock animals on the farms, even small farms, you have to comply with feedlot regulations.”
Folks can revisit these regulations at bit.ly/3a3jcHS where the full ordinance for Wright County is detailed.
Regardless of being continuously shut down, there are many folks in the area adamant about having chickens. One of these pro-chicken homeowners is Adam Estrem, who spoke before the Champlin City Council at that March meeting discussing the ordinance.
Estrem has two young children that he hopes to teach about food sustainability, caring for animals and basic responsibility, and believes that raising chickens is a perfect way to do that. In addition to the educational aspect of chickens, Estrem also believes they could help with food security and instilling a better community ethic.
One of Estrem’s neighbors lost their job during the pandemic, and he and his family were able to bring them some fruits and veggies from their garden as a sort of “outdoor food shelf.” Estrem thinks that eggs laid by chickens could help supplement this operation.
“I want to help provide where people need it most,” he said. “I like to think, ‘how can we be a good neighbor?’”
This increased interest in chickens also may come with a price, though. Minneapolis-based organization Chicken Run Rescue posted a plea on Facebook earlier this year asking folks to consider the responsibility associated with caring for chickens before they buy.
“The backyard chicken fad is still with us and the number of people getting chickens to fill their time during the pandemic has resulted in an explosion of poor decisions that harm chickens,” the post says, noting an astronomical increase in chicken permits in the metro area over the last year.
If you are considering raising chickens, be sure to do your research beforehand to make sure you have the correct permits, housing conditions and care routine in place to be respectful of neighbors and the surrounding environment.