Few people take the time to step up to the microphone at Faribault City Council meetings, but when Amber Brossard did, city staff listened.
In April, Brossard approached the council at an open microphone session to point out the city did not have an ordinance allowing residents to raise chickens within city limits — and that it should.
Brossard also noted that Northfield did and that folks there were enjoying their coops in healthy numbers.
Since the late 2000s as part of the “grow your own food” movement, the trend of “urban” chicken-raising has exploded, as evidenced by the number of “how to” sites cropping up on the Internet, including backyardchickens.com, run by Rob Ludlow, who has also authored three books on the topic, including “Raising Chickens for Dummies.” Ludlow’s site started in 2007 with fewer than 100 members. Now, it boosts more than 200,000.
Locally, Craigslist.org has a sizable list of chickens wanted and for sale in the south metro — more than 30 in a five-day span last week.
Reginaldo Haslett-Marroquin, founder of the Rural Enterprise Center, created his business to help Latino immigrants establish themselves as entrepreneurs. From there, the business has morphed into a poultry production and marketing operation. Haslett-Marroquin’s 10-year-old son, Lars, has expressed a strong interest in the same, and last year raised his own flock of chickens. The rural Northfield family is hoping to launch an indiegogo.com fundraising effort to help Lars construct a fully equipped, year-round coop.
Northfielder Lisa Peterson just took ownership of a small clutch of Rhode Island Reds and plans to raise them for their eggs. She bought a coop from Fleet Farm and plans to fence off an area of her yard so they can roam.
“Our neighbors like them and have come over to visit them,” Peterson said in an email. “I love to watch them.”
Northfield’s ordinance is pretty simple, said City Administrator Tim Madigan. Anyone who lives on five acres or less within city limits can keep as many as six adult chickens as long as:
• the owner’s home is on the same lot
• there aren’t any roosters in the bunch
• there is a covered and/or fenced enclosure where they’re kept at all times
• the enclosure/fenced area is at least 25 feet away from any residential structure on an adjacent lot
Madigan said the city hasn’t really seen a major uptick in calls about the ordinance but that the inquiries have come in at a steady few every month or so. Some inquire if a permit is needed, others complain about the ones already in town that get loose or are noisy.
“The code prohibits roosters because everyone knows they make noise,” Madigan said. “But hens will make some noise, too.”
After Brossard addressed the Faribault City Council in April, staff were directed to gauge the public interest in urban chicken-raising. At its May 6 work session, the council found out just how much interest there was.
“I talked with my neighbors and they’ve all said ‘Yeah, let’s do it’,” said Faribault resident Ed Karn. Karn told the council that on the 800 block of Second Avenue Northwest, there were several homeowners interested in raising chickens.
“I got six kids, each of them eat two eggs a day and I eat about 10, so we’d love to have this,” Karn said. “I’m definitely here for the chickens.”
Councilor Kay Duchene had a little trouble with Karn’s math, noting that hens only lay one egg every 24 hours; six hens doesn’t make it financially feasible, she noted.
“It might not be cheap but it’s a good lesson on responsibility for kids and it’s a lesson on doing it yourself,” Karn said. “And darn it, it’s just fun.”
Resident Marian Langsley agreed when she spoke at the microphone, also saying that she had a coop in town several years earlier until she found out it wasn’t allowed.
Mayor John Jasinski said he was on the fence about the issue.
“I did a ride-along with the police and the last time there were a lot of animal calls,” he said. “I don’t want to see more animal calls.”
In fact, according to the Humane Society of the United States, an increasing number of peep owners are abandoning their animals at shelters once they grow into hens. For instance, in Minneapolis a shelter has formed specifically for fowl. As of late last week, Chicken Run Rescue featured more than 15 hens and roosters on its site that were available for adoption.
Chicken Run Rescue founder Mary Britton Clouse told NBC-TV news last summer that fewer than 50 fowl were surrendered in 2001, compared to 500 in 2012.
Faribault councilors seemed open to the idea of having staff explore a possible ordinance, but not in the very near future.
“I don’t think this needs to be a top priority,” said Councilor Steve Underdahl. “It’s going to take time to do some research and have some public hearings. We’ve got the comp plan (comprehensive plan) and a lot of other things that are pretty staff intensive right now.”
Reach Managing Editor Jaci Smith at 333-3134, or follow her at Twitter.com @FDNJaciSmith