Note: The term “chicken” includes hens and roosters, but I use the term chicken in place of hen in this blog.
I’ve got good news and bad news for urban chicken enthusiasts in Flagstaff. The good news is the Zoning Code will no longer restrict keeping chickens if the new Zoning Code passes next Tuesday. The bad news, the restrictions in the City Code are still pretty stiff and need to be brought up to date.
How outdated is Flagstaff’s City Code? Let’s just say that it’s illegal to “maintain guinea pigs”. Yep…According to City Code 6-03-001-0001 they are “declared to be a nuisance, injurious to health, a source of filth and cause of sickness” along with swine, cattle, mules, burrow, sheep, goats, poultry, fowl, rabbits and horses. So much for the kids’ pet guinea pig for Christmas.
Luckily there are some exceptions to the City Code, including one for female poultry. You may have up to 25 female poultry as long as they are 50 feet or further from any residence building. Still not flexible enough for those of us with average sized lots wanting to raise chickens for fresh eggs.
So, I guess that means we’ll have to move out to Doney Park on a couple acres so we can raise chickens, or we can take a stand and get City Council to change the City Code! I have started gathering various city ordinances that are much more chicken friendly. Some allow a certain number of chickens on any size lot, others give a more reasonable 5 or 10 feet from any residence, all prohibit roosters, which is completely understandable. You don’t need a rooster to get eggs and female chickens (hens) are no more noisy than the birds that fly around your back yard naturally. I can place a bird feeder in my yard and attract dozens of birds at a time, but can’t own a single chicken.
Another common misconception is that chickens smell bad. Unless you leave the coop uncleaned for a long period of time, they won’t smell badly. And to make sure that chicken owners are not violating their neighbors rights the Council could add a paragraph in the code similar to this one found in code 6-02-001-0011 “…keeping dog pens or dog runs clean and sanitary, generally free of fecal and other matter than may attract flies, rodents, or cause an offensive odor that may disturb the comfort of any person.” If someone won’t clean their coop, they would likely have to face fines and/or get rid of their chickens.
Not only are eggs a great source of food for the urban chicken farmer, but think of the greater impact. If I have 3 hens that lay enough eggs for my family all year, I no longer have to purchase unhealthy eggs full of pesticides and hormones that come from over populated “egg factories”. I can re-use egg cartons so less Styrofoam is going into the landfill. My chickens would provide a natural fertilizer for my garden, saving me money and allowing my family to be more self-sufficient. Chickens would also eat insects that are pests in my garden (no more grasshoppers!). In addition to all these benefits, chickens make great pets.
In the coming months I’ll be working hard to convince Flagstaff City Council to change the City Code to be more chicken friendly (and maybe I’ll address the illegal guinea pigs while I’m at it). If you’d like to help or give your input it would be greatly appreciated!