Urban Fowl Proponents Cluck for Relaxed Chicken Coop Rules in Huntsville City Limits

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — People who want to raise chickens and reap their benefits are asking the City of Huntsville to relax its rules for backyard chicken coops.

Chicken coops have technically been allowed inside the city limits since the 1970s, but the 150-foot setback requirement from the nearest house effectively bans them from most neighborhoods.

“It’s very limiting,” says Huntsville City Manager of Planning Marie Bostick, “you couldn’t really have a coop in any of our downtown neighborhoods or even in South Huntsville because the lots are just too small.”

The Huntsville Hen Alliance says it has collected more than 250 signatures from city residents who want to be able to raise hens at home.

"If they would relax it that would be so wonderful," says urban fowl proponent Gwynne Platz. The mom said her kids go through a lot of eggs, and that chicken are not just utilitarian: Platz says chickens cut down on pests like mosquitoes and that the feathered fowl actually make wonderful pets.

"And then they start to lay delicious eggs," added Platz.

Marie Bostick says Nashville, Atlanta and many other U.S. cities have recently changed their laws to allow chicken coops with an average setback of just 30-50 feet. So the city of Huntsville is proposing an added provision to its zoning ordinance to permit urban fowl.

"We've come up with a proposal that we would have 10 feet from the property line," explains Bostick, "so we take out the structure requirement and just say that the coop has to be a minimum of 10 feet from your property line."

Bostick says the overall urban agricultural  amendment to the current city ordinance would cover much more than urban chickens, but would add provisions to make it easier community gardens and even farmers markets to operate.

The ordinance amendment is in its infancy, though, says Bostick. She says it will be presented to the zoning committee of the planning commission. Bostick says the process will likely take 4 or 5 months and would be finally adopted or rejected by the Huntsville City Council by late 2013 or early 2014.

"If it happens," says Gwynne Platz, "I'd be all over it."