Fowl measure wins OK: Ordinance allowing chickens in city passes first test

Gazette photo by Avery Cropp
Reese Schuna left, and her brother, Gavin, hold up homemade “Vote Yes to Chickens” signs at Tuesday’s city council meeting. The children are looking forward to getting baby chickens if the ordinance passes.

Stillwater residents could bring home some feathered friends after the City Council approved the first reading Tuesday of an ordinance allowing people to keep chickens on their property.

Residents at the hearing supported the proposed ordinance, including two children and their parents with handmade “Vote Yes to Chickens” signs. Some speakers at the hearing admitted to already having chickens at their homes. The city has currently suspended enforcement of an ordinance prohibiting city residents from keeping chickesn.

Although no one spoke in opposition, Ward 3 Councilman Jim Roush spoke against the ordinance. The council eventually voted 3-to-2 to give the measure a second reading, with Roush and Ward 4 Councilman Michael Polehna voting no.

“Unfortunately, what we have to do is look at the entire city,” Roush said. “All of the people in support of this bill are mainly from the other side of town. We can’t put in a partition by wards. I don’t care if people want to keep chickens but people in my ward don’t want chickens though I am not against what you are doing.”

He went on to cite a CDC website page that discussed some of the risks of keeping backyard poultry including salmonella and increased presence of predators and rodents.

Ward 1 Councilman Doug Menikheim, agreed that Roush’s had valid points, but asked him: “Where are all the people complaining? Where are all the people dying from salmonella? How many people died in Lakeview Hospital in the past year from these people’s chickens?”

Menikheim added: “The points you make are valid but it’s the same risk you take when being involved with flu germs. People get sick, people vomit and get the same symptoms as salmonella and yes sometimes people die, but it’s very few.”

Ordinance supporters said benefits of having chickens included less bugs and ticks, healthy organic eggs free of pesticides, education for children about where their food comes from and garden compost.

Ordinance stipulations include: no more than five chickens can be kept on property; no roosters are allowed, and a two-year permit must be acquired

Permit holders will be required to read information provided from the Animal Humane Society before getting chickens. The chickens cannot be free-range and will be required to be in a coop with an attached and enclosed pen.

Polehna’s concern was that the city drafted an ordinance to please a minority.

“There are 18,000 people in town and just a handful of them want to keep chickens,” he said. “Jim brings up a good point when he talks about diseases and the nuisance of attracting predators. How are you going to control the coyotes that you complained about earlier Doug (Menikheim) when you put bait in town. My grandfather owned a farm, I worked on his farm and I don’t think it (chickens) belongs in Stillwater.”

The next step a second reading of the ordinance at the Oct. 2 council meeting. If approved the ordinance will go into effect five days later.