Dade City considers backyard chickens
DADE CITY - The urban-chicken movement could soon have some new adherents. Dade City is exploring the possibility of letting residents raise backyard chickens, though the privilege likely would come with limitations. Commissioner Jim Shive said he has talked with residents who want to keep chickens – something that's not allowed right now in Dade City neighborhoods. "It's something to look into, as long as it's a controlled environment," Shive said at Tuesday night's City Commission meeting.Commissioner Eunice Penix also said the topic is worth exploring. The commissioners directed the city staff to begin working on an ordinance that would make those backyard chickens a possibility. Clucking is one thing, but buzzing is another. Commissioner Scott Black said, just to be clear, any new ordinance should be about chickens only. "Some cities are allowing backyard beekeeping," he said. If the chicken ordinance comes to fruition, Dade City would join a trend that has caught on nationally as well as in the region. The Tampa City Commission is revising its land-development code to allow urban chickens, and the Pinellas County Commission voted last year to allow a limited number of chickens in neighborhoods in the unincorporated parts of the county. Even before Tuesday evening's meeting, City Attorney Karla Owens had been researching the subject and found a University of New Mexico study that reviewed what other cities have included in their urban-chicken ordinances. Most cities that allow chickens in residential neighborhoods limit the number of birds, Owens said. They give the go-ahead to egg-laying hens, but usually outlaw those noisy roosters. They also take other steps to try to keep things under control, such as requiring permits and including a nuisance clause in case problems develop. Oddly, the urban-chicken discussion came as the commissioners were amending the city's bird sanctuary ordinance to make it clear that, at the moment, chickens aren't allowed in the city, except on property that is zoned agricultural. All of Dade City is a bird sanctuary, making it unlawful to hunt, shoot, trap, injure or molest any wild bird or wild fowl within the city limits. The bird sanctuary ordinance was never intended to protect domestic or wild chickens, but Owens said it was best to spell that out directly in case someone cited for harboring chickens opted to use a bird-sanctuary defense. "I didn't want to get in a conversation with a judge on why we were protecting chickens and then not allowing people to have them," Owens said.
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