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.