Friday, May 29, 2009

the wheels of government


What follows is a list of concerns the Concord, NC Planning and Zoning Commission expressed when they tabled our proposed text amendment hearing regarding the legalization of keeping chickens within the city limits. This was, by the way, the second time we've been tabled. I have included my responses. I'm in Italics including my introductory paragraph.

Items to Consider/Answer on the Chicken Ordinance

We understand that there is a reluctance to allow chickens to be kept legally within the city limits of Concord. We have tried extremely hard to educate all involved in the realities of keeping a small flock of hens in urban and suburban environments. We have also provided what just might be the most detailed city chicken text amendment in the entire country based on our research. We would like to go one step further and propose the Planning and Zoning Commission recommend our text amendment be approved by the Concord City Council pending a six month trial period. In six months someone from the Concord Police Code Enforcement Department can report back to City Council. If the text amendment has hindered their ability to address poultry problems within the city limits the text amendment would be stripped from city code or rewritten to address concerns. We believe this additional step will satisfy lingering concerns about our intentions.

1. Having a permit has not been addressed or the fee for the permit. Where can they get the permit and what department is responsible for it. Possible inspection of coop and feed storage before a permit is issued. Fines per day for any non-compliance to this ordinance.

No permit shall be required to keep chickens within the city limits so long as the requirements of the city ordnance are met. There are several reasons why we believe a permit is unnecessary.

A. The fee associated with a permitting process would unnecessarily raise the cost for families hoping to raise a portion of their own protein in the form of eggs. With the cost of food rising along with the unemployment rate, the City of Concord should not impose additional financial barriers to those families hoping to be more food self sufficient.

B. We feel that taxpayers’ money should not be used to fund a permitting process that is unnecessary. Our local government is feeling the financial strain that is burdening the entire country. This is not the time to add an additional governmental expense.

C. Many cities in North Carolina such as Raleigh, Asheville and Winston-Salem allow city chickens without the added burden of a permitting process.

D. All other pets, including many species of domestic birds, are allowed within the city limits without a permitting process. Those of us interested in legally raising a small number of hens as pets have already met a much higher standard by creating a comprehensive text amendment to the existing ordnance. Under the proposed text amendment the department of code enforcement will have very broad powers to make sure citizens keep chickens in accordance with strict rules. The additional burden of a permit is excessive.


2. Details on the materials (roof, sides, bottom) of a properly constructed henhouse are not defined. (photos /pictures of proper and improper housing shown?). There was no mention of the under tray required for the coop in order to properly take care of waste. A painted coop must be maintained.

The following paragraph is included in the proposed text amendment.

A humane and properly constructed henhouse, with at least two (2) feet of grade level ground clearance shall be provided. The structure must include solid, secure sides, including a solid top, that maintain confinement and prevents entry of predatory animals such as foxes or hawks. Sides should be embedded into the ground no less than one foot unless attached to frame. Exterior surfaces, not inherently resistant to deterioration, shall be treated with a protective coating, such as paint or other suitable preservative, and with sufficient frequency to prevent deterioration. Enclosure must provide access for proper cleaning and maintenance. It must provide protection from extreme temperatures, including but not limited to insulation, ventilation and drainage; Henhouses must include laying boxes of a minimum surface of fourteen (14) inches by fourteen (14) inches per chicken and must be regularly bedded with sawdust, straw or like material. All enclosures, including but not limited to structures and fencing, shall be constructed or repaired as to prevent rats, mice, or other rodents from being harbored underneath, within, or within the walls of the enclosure. All henhouses must be properly maintained in a safe, clean, sanitary and substantial condition.
It mentions that any structure “must include solid, secure sides, including a solid top, that maintain confinement.” A picture is included here for reference and could be included in the text amendment.


There is no need for a removable bottom. The above paragraph mentions that structures “must be regularly bedded with sawdust, straw or like material.” This will absorb the small amount of waste the chickens will produce inside the structure. The paragraph ends with a catch-all statement that gives code enforcement broad power to shut down any chicken owner who does not adhere to proper standards. It reads, “All henhouses must be properly maintained in a safe, clean, sanitary and substantial condition. “ Painted surfaces are addressed with the statement that reads, “Exterior surfaces, not inherently resistant to deterioration, shall be treated with a protective coating, such as paint or other suitable preservative, and with sufficient frequency to prevent deterioration. “

3. Should there be a percent of the yard that can be used for chickens according to lot size? This would reduce the # of chickens allowed in smaller lots. (3 chickens per 5,000 sq ft, 6 per 10,000 sq ft)
The proposed text amendment requires, “each hen shall have a minimum of four (4) square feet of range area.” A maximum of 6 hens would require only 24 square feet of range area. Raleigh allows 25 chickens per residence. Charlotte allows 20. 6 hens is a reasonable number for even a very small lot.

4. Nothing is written about handling new chicks and what must be done if they are not hens.

The proposed text amendment prohibits roosters. That statement gives citizens a mandate and code enforcement a clear line about what is and is not allowed under the law. Citizens who wish to keep hens are free to buy sexed runs of chicks known to be female or to purchase laying hens from hatcheries or local farmers or raise chicks and take roosters to a veterinarian to be euthanized. It is our view that city code should establish the rules governing city life but stop short of mandating how individual citizens live within those rules.

5. Waste should be removed weekly.

The waste management section of this text amendment was written with help from Allen Scott, Environmental Services Director for the City of Concord. Ultimately the disposal of any chicken waste within the city limits is his responsibility. The text amendment as written meets with his approval. We respectful request that the Planning and Zoning Commission defer to his expertise on this matter.

6. Chickens can’t have access to a dwelling crawl space.
The following text has been added to the text amendment. "The range area provided to any chickens must not include the crawl space of any residential structures not built exclusively to house the chickens."

7. Have we checked with the health dept on possible issues/health laws or requirements regarding veterinary check-ups?
No requirements for pet health checkups is necessary as a government mandate for chickens or any other pets kept by citizens within the city limits of Concord.

8. Possibly adding Charlotte requirements items d. and e. that is in our materials.

Item d. has been added to the proposed text amendment. It reads, “The range area must be well drained so there is no accumulation of moisture.” Item e. is already addressed by the code language that reads, “All henhouses must be properly maintained in a safe, clean, sanitary and substantial condition.” This catch-all statement gives code enforcement broad power to shut down any chicken owner who does not adhere to proper standards.

9. Adding that “Despite compliance with the ordinance if the presence of fowl is still likely to endanger the health, safety, peace, quiet of or otherwise become a public nuisance to near-by residents or businesses the permit can be denied. A public nuisance being defined as… annoying noise or odor, causing detriment to the health , safety and welfare of neighboring persons and properties…kept in such a manner as to be nauseous, foul or offensive.

These concerns have been addressed above.

10. I don’t know how chickens are usually watered but do we need to address any standing water (mosquitoes) issues or do they have a water feeder?

A picture of a chicken waterer has been included.


Every chicken dreams of waking up to a waterer full of mosquito larva. Chickens devour such insect pests. A few chickens in every backyard would mean a lower population of mosquitoes within the city limits of Concord.

Those of us working on this proposed text amendment greatly appreciate all the help we have received. City of Concord employees have been great during this process. We believe that the 500 word proposed text amendment meets a very high standard for a strict and easily enforceable code regarding the practice of keeping chickens as pets. Thank you for your consideration.

This ends the concerns and questions from Concord P&Z. What follows is the actual proposed text amendment. Paragraph three is my favorite.

Article 8Article 8. Use Regulations
Section 8.38.3 Supplemental Regulations for Certain Uses

F. Lots that are zoned for and utilized as single family detached residential may be permitted a maximum of (6) domestic female chickens (hens) contingent on the following requirements:

1. Hens are utilized for personal egg production or as pets;

2. Hens shall not be butchered within the City limits.

3. A humane and properly constructed henhouse, with at least two (2) feet of grade level ground clearance shall be provided. The structure must include solid, secure sides, including a sollid top, that maintain confinement and prevents entry of predatory animals such as foxes or hawks. Sides should be embedded into the ground no less than one foot unless attached to frame. Exterior surfaces, not inherently resistant to deterioration, shall be treated with a protective coating, such as paint or other suitable preservative, and with sufficient frequency to prevent deterioration. Enclosure must provide access for proper cleaning and maintenance. It must provide protection from extreme temperatures, including but not limited to insulation, ventilation and drainage; Henhouses must include laying boxes of a minimum surface of fourteen (14) inches by fourteen (14) inches per chicken and must be regularly bedded with sawdust, straw or like material. All enclosures, including but not limited to structures and fencing, shall be constructed or repaired as to prevent rats, mice, or other rodents from being harbored underneath, within, or within the walls of the enclosure. All henhouses must be properly maintained in a safe, clean, sanitary and substantial condition

4. All feed and other items associated with the keeping of chickens that are likely to attract or to become infested with or infected by rats, mice, or other rodents shall be protected so as to prevent rats, mice, or other rodents from gaining access to or coming into contact with them;

5. Disposal of Chicken Waste/Manure: Waste products (manure) generated from the raising of chickens shall be composted on-site by the owner when possible. If on-site composting is impractical the waste products shall be double bagged in clear plastic bags and placed in the rollout container for disposal along with the regular household trash.

6. All hens shall be contained, at all times, within a wooden fence of at least four (4) feet high. The finished side of the fence shall face outward and each hen shall have a
minimum of four (4) square feet of range area. The range area must be well drained so there is no accumulation of moisture.

7. All henhouses shall be a minimum of ten (10) feet away from any adjoining property line. All structures, fencing, and hens must be located in the rear yard of the dwelling. The range area provided to any chickens must not include the crawl space of any residential structures not built exclusively to house the chickens.

8. Male chickens (roosters) are prohibited.

9. No permit shall be required to keep chickens within the city limits so long as the requirements listed above are met.


I know what you're thinking but this is not in fact a joke. I can go and buy a parrot this afternoon and bring him home and let him live in my house and remain within the legal restrictions set up by Concord, NC. But if I want a few chickens for eggs, pest control and free fertilizer, well that requires a bit more effort.

6 comments:

Robyn M. said...

Ye Flipping Gods! My city can be pretty stupid about things at times, but this has got to take the cake. Thank the heavens my city maintains a "fewer than 5 small animals = pets" plus a hefty dose of "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding chickens (and similar small livestock). I'm really surprised that Concord is so backwards-thinking. Or perhaps they are rather in "clinging desperately to forward-thinking against all rationality and/or hope" mode?

gaiasdaughter said...

Heaven forbid a dog owner build an unpainted dog house, or a cat owner let their cat sleep in a crawl space, or the neighbor fill his bird bath with real water! Thanks for fighting the good fight . . . Hope you win the last round!

thetinfoilhatsociety said...

Robin, I rather think Concord is trying very hard to keep as far away as possible from the connotation of 'redneck southerners' hence the extreme reluctance to allow people to keep chickens.

Have you gotten your local news agencies -- paper, radio, tv to do a story on this? Maybe featuring you as the underdog trying to feed your family and being stymied by the govt?

Persa said...

Just want to point out that you meant "pets" I hope, instead of "pests" in this paragraph: "D. All other pets, including many species of domestic birds, are allowed within the city limits without a permitting process. Those of us interested in legally raising a small number of hens as pest have already met a much higher standard by creating a comprehensive text amendment to the existing ordnance. "

nulinegvgv said...

I can't expect spell check to catch stuff like that. Thanks.

Lateef Jackson said...

Thanks for writing this up Aaron. Every time we deal with P&Z board I am amazed at there boldness. Your response is excellent and much better than all the 4 letter words that I wanted to respond with. I am still shocked by the P&Z disconnect.