OGDEN -- Depending on your point of view, backyard chickens are either a ready source of quality food or a complete nuisance -- but either way you look at it, they probably won't be allowed in Ogden any time soon.
Last week, the city council held a special work session to discuss whether further consideration of allowing chickens in Ogden residential areas is warranted.
In short, the majority of the council thought that, no, it isn't.
Councilwomen Caitlin Gochnour and Amy Wicks are of the opinion that chickens should be allowed in the city.
Council members Neil Garner, Doug Stephens, Bart Blair and Susie Van Hooser are against the idea, while Richard Hyer is on the fence.
Chickens are raised by some residential homeowners as a cheap and convenient source of eggs and meat. Some also use chickens to aid in pest control.
Backyard chickens are currently allowed in such large Utah cities as Provo and Salt Lake City.
"I think it's an important issue to consider, because it speaks to the age-old American ideal of self-
sufficiency," Gochnour said. "I think there are enough people who want (chickens) and I think there is a way we can accommodate them if there is a willingness."
Gochnour said that in her research, many chicken owners in cities are young, educated, urban professionals who likely understand the responsibility of owning such birds.
Wicks said she has heard from several Ogden residents who want chickens, and she also said that, in many scenarios, dogs and cats can present just as much nuisance as chickens do.
The council members against the idea all share the same basic rationale that allowing chickens in the city opens the door for animal control and health problems and places an additional burden on the city's code enforcement officers.
"I'm sure there are plenty of people who would be just fine and be totally responsible, but I think there are also people who wouldn't be," Blair said. "You sort of open Pandora's box. As soon as someone sees that their neighbor has chickens, they think they can do it too, and the whole idea of registering them goes out the window."
Earlier this year, Ogden added clarifying language to municipal code to hammer home the fact that chickens are not allowed within city limits.
In 2010, with a 4-3 vote, the council ruled against a proposed ordinance that would have allowed chickens in Ogden.
David Frame, Utah State University Extension poultry specialist, said chickens can indeed be raised in an urban setting such as Ogden.
"It can be done in cities, and it can be done responsibly," he said. "Obviously, it's up to the individual, but it's really not that hard to raise backyard chickens in a safe and responsible way."
Frame, a veterinarian and an associate professor at USU, said it's essential that chickens be properly cared for with plenty of water and high-quality feed.
He also said it's important that chickens always be properly enclosed in a space large enough for proper air circulation, but small enough to keep from getting too cold and drafty in winter.
While raising chickens in the city in a responsible manner is relatively easy to do, Frame said, that doesn't mean it always happens.
"The challenge is, how do you regulate responsibility?" he said. "You really can't. You'll always have those people who are reckless. I think as a city, you just have to weigh the positives versus the negatives and go from there."