Thursday, July 25, 2013
Plano fights for its right to poultry
Activists seek to change city laws on keeping chickens in backyards.
PLANO Dogs and cats are welcome pets across Plano, but the same cannot be said for chickens, which are banned in Plano but can be kept in backyards in cities such as Irving and Celina.
Chickens are classified as livestock, not pets, meaning they can only be raised in areas of the city that are zoned agricultural. However, if a recently formed group gets its way, that could change.
Jay Gardner, who founded the Facebook group "Legalize Backyard Chickens in Plano, Texas," said he is working to educate the public about the benefits of chickens so he can push to get the city ordinance banning them changed.
"The trend nationwide is to keep typically three to seven hens in a backyard coop," he said. "They provide fresh eggs and their droppings -- once composted -- provide excellent, nitrogen-rich fertilizer for the garden and lawn. [They are also] an excellent opportunity for children and adults to learn about where their food comes from."
Gardner's Facebook group currently has 132 members, and he said the response has been positive when he has passed out flyers at events such as Learn 2 Live Green.
Chickens are banned in the city for a variety of reasons, said Animal Services Manager Jamey Cantrell.
"Just having the chickens is a major attractant to other wildlife who want to eat the chickens, like bobcats, raccoons, possums and coyotes," he said. "We work very hard to try and educate people on how not to attract wildlife to their neighborhoods, and by putting chickens back there you are basically opening up a buffet."
Other concerns with backyard chickens, Cantrell said, include noise and the presence of rats and mice, which can be attracted to the chicken coops when excess food is present. Cantrell said unwanted or stray chickens, which often lack identification tags, are hard for animal service officers to place, since many shelters are solely set up to handle mammals, not birds. Roosters, Cantrell said, are especially hard to find homes for since the majority of people only raise hens.
While Gardner said he understands these concerns, he said further education can get rid of some of what he calls the "misconceptions of raising chickens." This education is what Gardner is currently focusing his efforts on, adding he doesn't want to rush the process since he may only get one chance to have chickens legalized.
Of course, even if the city were to legalize backyard chickens, many homeowners associations have rules concerning which animals can be kept as pets. Cantrell said in this case, the city's ordinance would not overrule the deed restriction, something Gardner said he knows will always be a concern.
"That is absolutely the prerogative of a homeowners association or neighborhood association," Cantrell said. "If they have rules for their neighborhoods, then I completely understand that, but I think that should be for them to decide. I don't see why they should be forced on them by the city."
For information on Gardner's group, visit tinyurl.com/myblbqk.
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