Denton city leaders are ready to relax the rules so that more Denton residents can keep chickens in the backyard.
Resident Dawn Paradise first researched the issue on behalf of her family about two years ago. She prepared a request for the citizen agenda and waited through a contentious, six-hour-plus-long meeting to ask them to revisit the rules.
“I haven’t gotten any [chickens] because it would be illegal,” Paradise said.
The city allows chickens, but the current ordinance is so restrictive that most families are like Paradise’s — they don’t have a backyard large enough for the chicken coop to be far enough away from a neighbor’s house or garage.
“Nobody really has them unless they have acreage,” Paradise said.
The City Council heard recommendations this week on what other cities allow and what rules might address any community concerns over noise, odor, animals at large and wildlife predators.
Police Capt. Scott Fletcher told the council that chicken owners have to be as conscientious as dog and cat owners in caring for and cleaning up after their animals.
“It really all comes down to responsible ownership,” Fletcher said.
But, city rules can help in those situations where owners might be less thoughtful, he said.
The city staff recommends a maximum of eight hens per household, but no roosters, which should address noise concerns, Fletcher said.
The hens must also be kept in an enclosed yard at least 50 feet from the nearest structure, which should help address odor problems, he said. The enclosures will also go a long way to address any potential problems with predators.
Hens and their eggs can lure coyotes, foxes, raccoons, snakes and skunks, but Paradise is quick to say that predation isn’t exclusive to chickens.
“I’ve lost a few cats in the last four or five years — I don’t know whether it’s been foxes or coyotes,” Paradise said.
Requiring coops also will limit chickens at large, although that doesn’t mean that chicken owners wouldn’t be allowed to let the hens out from time to time to run and scratch, Fletcher said.
Chicken owners would be required to get a permit. The free permits would help animal control officers in case the birds get out. There isn’t room to house chickens at the animal shelter, Fletcher said.
“We don’t want to get into that,” he told the council.
Residents would not have to get a building permit for the chicken coop, according to outgoing planning director Mark Cunningham, unless they built one larger than 120 square feet.
Paradise has already talked to her homeowners association board, and found out that, if the city relaxes the rules, the board would be willing to relax its rules, too.
“I’m so happy,” Paradise said. “This sounds great.”
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .