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JUST ASK: Chickens? In THIS city? Not yet…

You can’t have this.

Ask us a question about just about anything and we’ll do our best to answer it, or find the people who can. Just Ask is a recurring Keizertimes feature.

We’ve gotten a few questions lately about The State of the Urban Chicken here in Keizer. What with all the feathers that flew in a similar debate in Salem (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun), a natural thing to wonder. Connie Roth-Ames asks us via Facebook:

“With all the talk about chickens in back yards in Salem, are Keizer residents allowed to have chickens in their backyards?”

Connie, the short answer is it depends on where you live in Keizer, but probably not. Chickens are allowed in three zones under Keizer’s development code: Exclusive Farm Use (EFU), Urban Transition (UT) and Agriculture Industrial (AI).

There’s not a specific ban on chickens in other areas of town. It’s that keeping chickens is considered a farm use according to City Attorney Shannon Johnson.

“We’ve taken the position … that chickens would probably be a farming practice and probably wouldn’t be allowed in most zones except the agricultural zones,” Johnson told us in 2009.

That doesn’t necessarily mean residents aren’t keeping them illicitly. We’ve been told there are already a few backyard coops in town.

Kevin Watson, who is Keizer’s assistant to the city manager, said he hasn’t heard the outcry for chickens in Keizer like there appeared to be in Salem. One person has appeared before the Keizer City Council in 2009, but that’s basically been it.

Councilors asked city staff to look into the issue last year, but Watson said staff wanted to see the outcome of the Salem debate.

“We’re going to look at it and possibly present something to council,” Watson said.

Proponents like the idea of urban chickens – with no crowing rooster, of course – for a variety of reasons – fresh eggs when you want them, saving money, self-reliance, more control over the food they eat, and some just plain like them as pets.

Opponents at Salem City Council have raised concerns about noise, the smell of an unclean coop, and possible negative effects on property values.

The Salem City Council, after more than 18 months of debate, finally passed an ordinance this week that would allow up to three hens per household with a city-issued license, so long as they are cooped up in the rear yard, maintained so that the coop “doesn’t produce noise or odor that creates a nuisance.” Roosters are not allowed. Licenses for a coop are $50.

There’s also proposed rules on how far the coop can be from a neighboring home (or the permitted household itself), and of course other setback rules.

Violating the permit rules is $250 on first offense.

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