OGDEN — Ogden’s great chicken debate apparently isn’t over.
A pair of residents spoke out during the public comment section of Tuesday’s council meeting, asking the city to consider revamping an ordinance that allows residents to legally keep backyard chickens, so long as they meet certain requirements.
After years of debate, the council passed the chicken ordinance in December. Drafted by city staff, the rule allows homeowners with at least 2,000-square-feet of open backyard space to have up to six chickens.
On Tuesday, Angela Hernandez and Malik Dayo told the council the ordinance is too restrictive and prohibits many city residents from lawfully owning backyard chickens. Specifically, the pair pointed to the homeownership and lot size requirements.
“I want to know why we have to have 2,000-square-feet if the chicken must be in the coop at all times,” Hernandez said. “That makes no sense to me. Also, why do we have to be a homeowner to have a chicken...if my (landlord) says it’s OK, I don’t see why the city should have any say so.”
Dayo, a well-known activist in Ogden, said he examined all properties within a six-block radius of his east-central home and found almost no one with a backyard of 2,000-square-feet. He said the ordinance’s “strict and unattainable” standards make it impossible for many to own even a single chicken, something he said is common in many Latin American cultures.
“There are some cultural considerations that I feel are not being taken into place,” Dayo said. “Being a Puerto Rican, our culture — Hispanic and Mexican-Americans — it’s part of our culture and it’s normal to have a chicken as a pet.”
The pair asked the city to set a formal date to discuss potential changes to the ordinance.
“We want to make this ordinance more fair to everybody in Ogden,” Dayo said. “Right now it’s only fair to residents in (certain) zip codes who have big backyards.”
Ogden Chief Administrative Officer Mark Johnson said the city currently has 17 licensed chicken owners and a total of 92 licensed chickens — about 5.4 chickens per owner. Since the ordinance passed, the city’s Animal Control and Code Enforcement departments have received 78 chicken complaints, with staff dedicating 18 hours to investigate the grievances.
A revamp of the ordinance could be initiated by the city administration, the council or citizens, with an associated fee.
Johnson said the administration won’t pursue any ordinance change, at least not in the near future.
“We only passed the ordinance in December,” he said. “I think we need to give it more time. If a year from now, it’s clear something is broken, we’d consider looking at it.”
When the council passed the ordinance in December, by a 4-3 vote, it elected not to include a proposal that would have permitted two to 12 chickens with no requirement for lot size.
Council Policy Analyst Amy Sue Mabey said the council would likely deliberate on the issue at some point, but no immediate action is scheduled or anticipated.