UPDATE: Huntsville Planning Commission Delays Vote on ‘Chicken Ordinance’


(Photo by Daniela Perallon/WHNT News 19)

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - A large crowd gathered at Huntsville City Hall on Tuesday evening to give their two cents in a debate about chickens within city limits.

Ultimately, the Huntsville Planning Commission delayed a vote that would ease restrictions on chicken coops, deciding the ordinance needs more review.

The proposed change would allow families to raise up to three egg-laying hens in backyard coops, provided the owners keep them in a clean coop a minimum of 10 feet from the property line.  Currently, chicken coops are only allowed in city limits if they are 150 feet from the nearest home.

The new ordinance would allow people with smaller yards to raise hens.  Many spoke in support at the meeting.

"Am I the only one that has been pinched by this economy and would like to take a little off my monthly grocery bill?" one man said.

No roosters would be allowed, because they tend to be noisier.

"No roosters," another man said.  "Chickens do not make noise. When they lay eggs I will give 'em a little noise. But other than that, you will never know they are there."

Many spoke against the measure, though.

"This whole thing needs to be studied and looked at," said city watchdog Jackie Reed.  "Where does Tommy Battle live?  I'm gonna get me some chickens and I'm gonna move over there if you allow this, I swear."

Cindi Tanner also spoke at the meeting.  Earlier Tuesday, she talked with WHNT News 19 about the reasons she opposes it.

One, many people think if they don't live in an area governed by a homeowners association, they can have chickens.  Tanner said those residents may have covenants or restrictions that say otherwise.

"If you live in a neighborhood that has covenants and restrictions but no homeowners association to enforce them, you are in a precarious position," said Tanner.  "Who is going to police the people who want chickens anyway?  That makes for bad neighbors."

Tanner also said she is concerned animal control may not be prepared for the influx of chickens that escape yards, are abandoned by owners or surrendered by owners if they aren't wanted or needed anymore.

WHNT News 19 contacted Huntsville Animal Services about this aspect.  The director, Dr. Karen Hill Sheppard referred us to the planning commission until more details are ironed out.

Marie Bostick, the city's Manager of Planning Administration, said her department would have personnel to respond to nuisance calls and write a citation if something was in violation.  They would follow up if the issue wasn't rectified, and revoke the person's permit to have chickens.

If the planning commission takes up the issue again and passes it, it would then go to the Huntsville City Council.

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