I’m not naming names, but some Redding residents may have violated city codes when they raised backyard chickens in modest suburban lots less than 20,000 square feet — spaces far smaller than the previously required half an acre for such fowl activities.
Backyard chickens were never an issue for Redding folks who had plenty of acreage. But city setback restrictions were in place to form a buffer between chicken coops and neighbors’ houses.
Tuesday, the Redding Planning Commission made Redding chicken-lovers cluck with joy when the commissioners recommended to ease restrictions that previously required more room for chicken-keeping than existed in many Redding neighborhoods — especially the older developments.
For many years, it’s been a chicken-lovers’ Cinderella story: Sure, Cinderella, you may have backyard chickens. Only if you have half an acre and ample buffers between your chickens and your neighbors’ property. Oh, you don’t have acreage? No chickens for you.
Backyard chicken enthusiasts can thank the Redding Planning Commission members. They voted Tuesday afternoon to accept city staff’s recommendations to loosen previous set-back restrictions, which clucked disapprovingly at chickens raised in smaller spaces. The City Council will take a deciding vote on the issue later.
No segue, but in this photo, below, Lily and May Bartimioli, my twin’s adorable granddaughters, are seen here with some recent chick acquisitions. Look how small the chicks are. See how little space they take up? Hardly anything.
Kent Manuel, senior city planner, did an excellent job of explaining how staff arrived at the conclusion that we have nothing to fear but chicken fear itself.
OK, so Manuel didn’t speak of chicken fear, but he did address the fact that backyard chickens are growing in popularity across the country, and many progressive cities actually encourage backyard chickens. In fact, many communities, like Portland, hold annual Tour de Coops, an event that lets the public see some of the area’s best chicken coops.
At the heart of Redding’s issue was a conflict between two zoning laws — each of which governed setbacks, and breakdowns regarding how many chickens — or other animals — were allowed in how much space.
Basically, staff suggested an amendment to an existing code to allow up to six chickens on a lot that conforms to the following property setbacks from the chicken residence: Front, 15 feet; Interior side, 5 feet; street side, 15 feet; rear, 15 feet; distance to adjoining residence, 40 feet. Click here to read the city’s full chicken report. By the way, staff said they’d work with those who had “hardship” situations; tiny yards that don’t comply with even the newly relaxed setbacks.
Manuel spoke of how chickens provide people with the means to provide their own food, and how chickens could even fit into the city’s recently adopted Healthy Communities resolution.
Even so, surely, at some point the chicken debates must have tried planning commissioners’ souls.
Sweet mother of God, the discussion eventually turned to such chicken minutia as chicken manure, and chicken noise (you can buy quiet birds), and one commissioner seemed especially interested in chicken disposal, which put Casey Shurig, the man whose letter started this whole chicken ball rolling, on the spot.
Commissioner Chris Young point-blank asked Shurig what he does with dead chickens. This prompted Shurig’s reply/question: How does anyone get rid of a family pet, a dog, cat, whatever. A stand-off ensued, while in the audience someone whispered, “Dig a hole and bury it.”
Mention was made of a rendering plant in Red Bluff, which drew some gasps from the chicken lovers. The city attorney helpfully added that he believed Haven Humane Society would cremate nearly any animal for a modest fee. Duly noted.
Overall, the chicken talk was positive, with the exception of one speaker, a gentleman who described his misfortune of living next door to a live chicken collection that left him feeling rather fowl about the whole situation. He told of chicken poop, chicken stench, flies, which came from maggots, attracted to the chicken poop, don’t you know.
This led to a side question regarding how many dogs and cats could a Redding resident own, which turned out to be a total of six, which happens to be Redding’s recommended chicken limit for smallish yards. Everyone agreed that when it comes to keeping chicks, there’s some wiggle room to have many chicks (under 3 months of age) until the chicks are old enough to determine their gender. Hens may stay. Roosters will have to go. (Hopefully not to Haven Humane.)
The bottom line: the Planning Commission voted to approve easing previous setback restrictions for backyard chickens.
But first Commissioners Randy Smith and Michele Goedert were voices of experience and reason as they weighed in with their purely positive poultry encounters.
“It’s not rocket science,” Smith said, adding that for the many years his family raised chickens, it was nothing but a pleasant experience.
No smell. No noise. No problem.
Photos by Doni Greenberg of May Bartimioli, 2, and her 4-month-old sister, Lily.
Independent online journalist Doni Greenberg founded what’s now known as anewscafe.com in 2007 with her son, Joe Domke of the Czech Republic. Prior to 2007 Greenberg was an award-winning newspaper opinion columnist, feature and food writer recognized by the Associated Press, the California Newspaper Publishers Association and E.W. Scripps. She lives in Northern California in the tiny town of Igo.