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Chickens look for food in a Farmington yard. Farmington and other Dakota County cities including Burnsville, Eagan, Lakeville and Rosemount allow chickens, while they are prohibited in Apple Valley. A group of Apple Valley residents requested the City Council to revisit the ordinance pertaining to residential chickens on Nov. 12.

Apple Valley city officials have been directed to revisit backyard chickens in 2021.

The Apple Valley City Council voted Nov. 12 to direct the Urban Affairs Committee to revisit an ordinance that currently prohibits residents from keeping chickens in residential neighborhoods.

Apple Valley last took formal action on backyard chickens in 2014 when the City Council voted to affirm a ban on chickens and other farm animals at residential properties. The vote had followed a review of the city ordinance pertaining to household pets and farm animals prompted by residents expressing interest in keeping goats and chickens at their single-family homes.

The council went through with the Nov. 12 vote after supporters of backyard chickens and Apple Valley residents asked the city to look at the issue again.

Other Dakota County cities including Lakeville, Farmington, Rosemount, Eagan and Burnsville allow chickens. All of those cities limit the number chickens that can be kept and some cities require residents to get a license or permit before keeping chickens.

Eastview High School junior Maura Hewitt told the City Council she grew up raising backyard chickens at her grandparents’ home in Burnsville. She was saddened to learn that she could not bring her chickens to Apple Valley when her family moved from a townhouse to a larger residence a few years ago.

Hewitt said raising chickens gave her the opportunity to participate in 4-H and show her animals. She also learned the responsibility of caring for animals and made friends with similar interests.

“That was kind of the beauty of having backyard chickens. It gave me the opportunity to participate in showing animals and 4-H without actually having to live on a farm,” she said. “Personally, I think that backyard chickens are a lot more similar to other household animals like dogs and cats rather than farm animals like goats.”

Apple Valley resident Rebekah Weum is one of a core group of about six people who have spearheaded the recent efforts to get support for allowing backyard chickens. She told the council she’s interested in having chickens to teach her children where food comes from and to help get rid of pests naturally for her large backyard garden.

Weum said a petition requesting the city to revisit the ordinance received over 360 signatures and a private Facebook group she created over the summer called “Apple Valley MN Backyard Chickens,” has grown to more than 200 members.

Weum and other supporters queried staff from cities including Eden Prairie and Shakopee that currently allow backyard chickens about violations, and they reported few complaints in recent years. Some employees said chickens were a positive aspect to their communities, Weum said.

“With the pandemic, highlighting the fragility of our food system, a lot of people were scared this spring when they couldn’t get eggs in the grocery stores. There’s a growing need for sustainable living practices, and I think that my generation has lost a lot of that understanding and knowledge of how to take care of ourselves, should things happen in the greater society that will prevent us from obtaining food,” she said. “I think these are all reasons to reevaluate our approach or position.”

Before the vote, Mayor Mary Hamann-Roland thanked the residents for sharing their experiences and said there would be good opportunities for conversation in the coming year.

Patty Dexter can be reached at patty.dexter@apgecm.com

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