Not so easy there, boy...

Well, I submitted my proposal to the city and figured that it would be a good idea to see if there were others who had an affection for chickens who would be supportive, if push came to shove. I contacted Gailmarie Kimmel with the Local Living Economy Project and Kelly Falbo with the Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Association. Through them, I have found a very supportive group of folks who have helped me see this as bigger than a goofy idea for one guy to enjoy hens in his yard. Even the Planning and Zoning folks were surprisingly supportive. The only opposition so far has come from the Police Department during the Neighborhood Task Force meeting where this issue was raised by the Land Use staff. As a result of the concerns raised by Chief Harrison of the Fort Collins Police Department, we decided to offer a set of regulations for the keeping of hens in the city. There went my idea of sticking with decriminalization... This is what Ted Shepard and I came up with:


Item 801 – Amend 5.1.2 – Definition of Farm Animals – to allow up to six chicken hens in the City.

Problem Statement

The Current Planning Department has accepted an application for a Text Amendment to change the definition of Farm Animals in order to allow up to six chicken hens in all zones of the City. Chickens are presently included in the definition and, therefore, are allowed only in the zones which allow Farm Animals (RUL, UE, RF).

The applicants state:

Given the current climate of awareness of the issues surrounding local food production, food security, and sustainability, we propose to amend Section 5.1.2 of the Fort Collins City Land Use Code definition of Farm Animals so that Chicken Hens numbering six (6) or fewer shall be considered pets and not be considered farm animals from a Land Use Code perspective.

Whereas responsibly raised chicken hens in an urban setting are less disruptive to the public than outdoor dogs and cats (1) (2) (3) (see below); and

Whereas locally raised eggs for personal consumption are a part of the sustainable lifestyle promoted by the Fort Collins/Belleview based Rocky Mountain Sustainable Living Association, the Northern Colorado Local Living Economy Project; and

Whereas there have been positive and public steps taken toward the responsible raising of urban chicken hens in such cities as Seattle, WA (4); Portland, OR (5); Cedar Falls, IA (6); Missoula, MT (7); and Madison, WI (8); and

Whereas allowing the raising of urban chicken hens would fit well within the Fort Collins City Plan values of Sustainability, Choices, Fairness, and Fulfillment; and

Whereas in 2000 the Sondburg House Chicken Coop was granted Historic Landmark designation by the city of Fort Collins (9) for its representation of the property's early history, thus showing a long-standing tradition of urban chicken raising in Fort Collins; and

Whereas the only impediment to allowing the urban raising of hens in the city of Fort Collins is in the prohibition of Chickens in Section 5.1.2 of the Land Use Code.

Therefore, we propose the Section 5.1.2 of the Land Use Code be amended to include the following:

Chicken Hens numbering six (6) or fewer shall be considered pets and not be considered farm animals.

(1) U.S. Humane Society reports that 4.7 million Americans, mostly children, are bitten by dogs.

(2) The American Bird Conservancy reports that domestic cats can have a significant negative affect on native wildlife populations, including songbirds.

(3) An Internet search for injuries caused by chickens resulted in no statistics. It appears that chickens do not cause a significant number of injuries to make the news.

(4) Seattle, WA

(5) Portland, OR

(6)Cedar Falls, IA

(7) Missoula, MT

(8) Madison, WI

(9) Sondburg House chicken coop

Proposed Solution Overview

Staff has worked with the applicant and researched other cities to find a reasonable compromise that would allow the responsible raising of chicken hens and yet protect the peace and quiet of residential neighborhoods. Amending the definition of Farm Animals in the Land Use Code would address the land use issue.

The enforcement issue, however, is covered under the Animal Control section of the City Code. The City of Fort Collins Police Department contracts out animal control services to the Larimer County Humane Society. These two entities would be responsible for responding to any complaints regarding chicken hens in neighborhoods. Based on input from these enforcement agencies, Staff will forward to City Council additional restrictions with regard to chicken hens as an amendment to Section 4.117 of the City Code:

Land Use Code:

Amend Section 5.1.2 definition of Farm Animals to retain the prohibition on roosters but allow up to six chicken hens. And, amend the Animal Control Section of the City Code.

Farm animals shall mean animals commonly raised or kept in an agricultural, rather than an urban, environment including, but not limited to, chickens, pigs, sheep, goats, horses, cattle, llamas, emus, ostriches, donkeys and mules. Chicken hens, numbering six (6) or fewer, shall be considered pets and not be considered farm animals.

City Code

Section 4-117(a)

Up to six (6) chicken hens may be allowed for the purpose of producing eggs, subject to the following restrictions:

1. No roosters are allowed.

2. No slaughtering is allowed.

3. Chicken hens shall be kept within a secure enclosure.

4. Enclosures shall be located at least fifteen (15) feet from the nearest property line.

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