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City considers allowing chickens in city limits

City dwellers are flocking to the idea of backyard chicken coops as homegrown food and going green gains momentum. The discussion has some cities considering their own policies.

The city of Springfield has talked about changing its zoning codes to allow chickens within city limits. However, Community Development Director Shannon Meadows said most of those discussions have been tabled, and no action has been taken recently to update the codes. Currently, the city does not allow chickens or any fowl to be kept in yards within city limits.

Outside the city, in the townships of Bethel, Mad River, Moorefield, Harmony, Green and Madison, chickens are permitted so long as they are kept in an appropriate chicken coop and that structure is at least 50 feet away from all property lines, said Allan Neimayer, senior planner for Clark County.

In neighboring counties, zoning and planning directors are having similar discussions about allowing fowl. The city of Urbana allows chickens so long as they are confined and neighbors do not have complaints about unpleasant smells and noise, said Brad Bodenmiller, planning director.

Debby Wilson of West Liberty said she was always interested in chickens because she remembered collecting eggs on her grandparent’s farm as a child. She was also drawn to the nutritional benefits of getting fresh, organic eggs. Inside town, the birds aren’t allowed. But on her four-acre lot outside the village’s center, she takes pride in her “chicken condo” coop and flock of 25 hens. The chickens produce up to two dozen eggs daily, some of which she doles out to grateful neighbors.

“I’m really attached to them,” she said of her flock. “I don’t see why we can’t have chickens in a town. They’re not noisy, and they’re not a nuisance so long as they’re fenced in.”

The Champaign County OSU Extension office reports chickens have other benefits. Their droppings have a high nitrogen content, which makes them good for composting and fertilizer. They also keep lawns bug-free without the use of pesticides.

Residents would have to petition their zoning boards or local representatives to consider changing regulations where the birds are not allowed. Most municipalities include codes on chickens and other animals. To find out the regulations in your community, contact your local zoning or planning board.

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