Urban chicken discussion packs Ogden council chambers

Wednesday , August 30, 2017 - 5:39 PM4 comments

MITCH SHAW, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Apparently, nothing brings out civic-mindedness like a discussion on chickens.

Ogden City Council chambers were packed Tuesday night as the council held a fact-finding work session on urban chickens, focusing specifically on how allowing them in Ogden would impact the city.

The last time the council formally addressed the issue was in 2012, but they determined then not to pursue further discussion.

RELATED: Urban chickens issue to go before Ogden City Council for Aug. 29 work session

And though it’s been five years since the council tackled it, the issue hasn’t gone away. Tuesday’s work session featured a turnout larger than recent hearings on city tax increases.

The session, which lasted more than three hours, featured presentations from the Ogden Police Department, Ogden Code Enforcement, the city’s planning department, the Weber-Morgan Health Department, Utah State University Extension poultry specialist Dr. David Frame and the Ogden Chicken Alliance.

Ogden Deputy Police Chief Eric Young told the council that if they were to adopt an ordinance allowing chickens, the police department would be required to spend an additional $50,000 a year on personnel costs.

Young said allowing chickens would involve an increased workload for the animal services department, estimating 20 hours a week would be spent on inspections, 20 hours would go into investigating complaints and another 10 hours would be dedicated to responding to issues related to mice, skunks, rats and raccoons.

RELATED: Backyard chickens could help stack the next Ogden City Council

Young also said allowing chickens would also increase animal services’ dog-related response load.

“Dogs and chickens don’t go together,” he said. “Dogs instincts are to go after chickens. We’re confident we’d see a lot of complaints related to disturbances about dogs and chickens.” 

The deputy chief estimated there are currently about 90,000 licensed and unlicensed dogs in the city. 

Gretchen Anderson, author of “The Backyard Chicken Fight,” told the council chickens and dogs can coexist. The author and backyard chicken proponent also itemized ways chickens can be beneficial to those living in an urban setting — sustainability, egg production, the production of nitrogen-rich fertilizer and pest control. 

“You won’t have a bug problem if you let your chickens free range for a few hours in the evening,” Anderson said.

Michela Gladwell, Environmental Health director for the Weber-Morgan Health Department, said live poultry often carries germs like salmonella and can be a draw for other rodents. 

Amy Carter, an epidemiologist with the health department said said illnesses linked to backyard poultry have been on the rise in the last few years. Carter said there have been 10 illnesses linked to backyard poultry in Weber County in 2017. There was seven in 2016 and three in 2015, she said.

Frame said most health impacts can be eliminated with proper sanitation practices.

“Sometimes we get the idea that every chicken out there is a salmonella machine,” he said. “However, there are a lot of chickens out there that don’t carry salmonella.”

The crowd at Tuesday’s meeting was overwhelmingly in favor of allowing urban chickens. 

Sandy Shupe works for the Ogden IFA Country Store and said the location sold 20,000 chicks last year.

“I promise you this is a big thing,” Shupe said. “Everybody wants backyard chickens. Your constituents want chickens — I hear it every single day.”

Ogden resident Tye Reeder invoked the city’s new slogan “Still Untamed,” when making her case for chickens.

“I was like, ‘Wait a second, no chickens, but they say they’re untamed?’” she said. “It’s a great slogan that inspires me to work to have chickens legally. It’s a right, I think, to be sustainable like that. It comes with responsibility and we would take that seriously.” 

Jared Johnson, representing the city code enforcement department, told the council if they decide to move forward with a chicken allowance, setting a limit on the number of birds allowed per household and requiring and education programs to be completed before licenses are granted would be necessary.

He said the council would also have to decide on regulations regarding slaughtering and allowing birds at single-family rental properties and multi-family developments. 

Council Chair Marcia White said council would discuss the issue again internally at a September work session and move forward from there. 

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at Facebook.com/MitchShaw.StandardExaminer.

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