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Update: Council cages chicken discussion

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By Shereen Siewert

WAUSAU — City leaders on Tuesday voted to table a discussion on legalizing backyard chicken farming to allow for more input from residents.

The proposal, approved May 14 by the Public Health & Safety Committee, would allow up to four hens in homes zoned as single family residences or two-family residence districts. The $35 permits would be granted only to homeowners and would be valid for one year.

Council members Tom Neal, Pat Peckham and Romey Wagner strongly objected to the delay, saying that they were already prepared to vote on the matter and additional input would be unnecessary.

Peckham said despite receiving more calls against chickens than for them, he is “quite comfortable supporting the proposal.”

“I think it’s the usual situation where those opposed are more motivated to speak up,” Peckham wrote, in a June 13 email to Wausau Pilot & Review.

But council member Dennis Smith said he welcomed the extra time to reach out to residents.

“I have to see if I can find one person in my district who is in favor of this, because I haven’t found him yet,” Smith said.

Residents remain sharply divided on the issue, and a Wausau Pilot & Review May 15 story on the proposal drew dozens of comments on both sides.

“Having a neighbor who raises chickens in the backyard won’t raise your property’s value but it will raise your risk of Salmonella infection,” wrote John Hattenhauer of Wausau, citing an October 2016 radio program on the topic.

But several readers pointed out that other cities have allowed chickens for years. Merrill, for example, has a backyard chicken ordinance that allows residents up to three chickens.

 

If the proposal passes, chicken coops would be required to be placed in the back yard area of a home at least 10 feet from the property line and at least 25 feet from the home itself. Between sunrise and sunset, chickens would be allowed to roam in a run that would provide at least three feet of space per chicken up to a maximum of 24 feet.

Sales of eggs would be prohibited, and owners would not be permitted to slaughter chickens on the premises. The plan also calls for the city’s humane officer to inspect homes before permits are issued.

The council was set to vote on the plan Tuesday, but opted instead to shelve the proposal until the July 18 meeting.

 

3 Comments

  1. The upcoming Council meeting on July 18 will bring the issue of backyard chickens to a vote. It is important to note that there is information which has been reported in other Wausau newspapers to make it appear that there are more people in favor of this, than actually are.

    For instance, one of the other papers reported that a group on the southeast side of Wausau conducted an online poll on Facebook that showed 73% of the voters were ok with backyard chickens/wanted their own. However, 73% was actually only 91 people out of over 1,100 people on that Facebook page, with most of those in favor not even residents of the southeast side. Many in favor were not even from Wausau.

    And, in fact, the Council member for that part of the city, Patrick Peckham according to City information, stated that he has received more input from his constituents that are against backyard chickens than those that are in favor.

    There are many issues that haven’t not been thoroughly discussed nor resolved by Council prior to the upcoming vote.
    For instance,
    – how can the currnet city inspector be tasked with yet another type of inspection when he or she can’t even keep up with issues relating to deplorable conditions of the many housing units in the city, a critical and ongoing problem for the city?
    – chickens and their food will attract raccoons, foxes, mites, coyotes, feral cats, etc. What will chicken owners do to provide for their chickens if they go away for an extended time? How will they ensure that the chickens can survive through the terrible Wisconsin winters when the high for three days in a row doesn’t get above zero?Will these issues be more work for the Humane Society officer?
    – chickens can make a yard an eyesore by destroying grass as they peck and scratch to find bugs and worms. Again, does the city inspector have authority to address complaints about that?
    – resale value of neighboring properties will be diminished, according to realtors. Real estate agents, in fact, recommend placing the coop in a corner of a yard, where it’s not in plain sight – with what is being proposed in Wausau that will be impossible.
    Realtor.com: “If you’re starting from chicks, hatcheries and pet stores can’t guarantee the sex of your birds. So determine ahead of time what you’ll do if it grows into a rooster. You should also decide what to do once your chickens stop laying. Daily egg production starts to slow down when a hen is about 18 months old, although it can live as long as 15 years. Will you still want your pets once they are no longer producing?” Will they be set loose by owners? dumped at the Humane Society?

    It seems incredulous that Council, with all that is facing Wausau on a MUCH more urgent basis, is spending time on this so that a small group of vocal people, who want fresh eggs out their backdoor, can be appeased.

  2. ^^^ The post above is the best explanation I’ve seen for not having chickens in a municipality. Well said.

  3. I am actually amazed that the city council is even debating the current Chicken Crisis as it involves no borrowing of millions of dollars, no tearing up streets to inconvenience the city’s residents, or tearing down and removing taxable property from the city’s tax rolls. I am stunned. Round up the usual suspects.

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