By unanimous vote, the Warsaw Planning Commission has given their approval to allow chickens within the city limits. The proposed ordinance received nearly an hour of discussion Monday night, and passed with little alteration, meaning the Warsaw Common Council will now vote on the matter.
Domestic chickens — specifically only female chickens or hens — will be permitted in the city limits if the city leaders approve the ordinance. However, those who want to raise or keep egg layers will be required to pay permit fees and be formally educated before any chickens will be approved.
The proposal includes an amendment to the existing city ordinance regarding domestic animals. In short, it allows for no more than 5 hens per property (number based on acreage), requires the completion of a chicken keeping class and valid permit, and chicken coops must meet size and structure provisions while fully confining the chickens.
But not everyone is pleased with the chicken ordinance moving forward. Mike Ragan noted the potential of 30 chickens that could be visible from his property near Paths of Deerfield and Patterson Place. “There’s a reason the city fathers said no to livestock in the city,” he said.
Also opposed to the ordinance was Larry Ladd. He reminded the planning board that their job is also to protect residents who do not want chickens and who want to protect their property values.
Ladd urged the board to consider that “outside food sources,” like the chickens and eggs, will likely attract more predators such as skunks, raccoons, dogs and fox and he is concerned that the chickens will initially be a novelty to some. “What happens if/when the novelty wears off?” he asked. “Will people be letting chickens go and who does the enforcement fall on?”
James Bausch, the Warsaw resident who first brought the proposal to the city for consideration, said to the board, “You’re not moving down a direction that is unpathed. These are hobby chicken keepers who will take a class, pay the fee … we want to do it right and do it well.”
Ellen Schwendeman of Warsaw was among those attended the meeting and spoke in favor of keeping hens. Although she admitted she unknowingly violated the city code by keeping hens in her backyard at one time, she is excited about the possibility of getting more egg layers. Like Bausch, she explained that “chickens die pretty easily” and are a lot of work and added, “those who aren’t dedicated will not be in the equation for long.”
While there was some discussion on nailing down more specific guidelines for what materials could be used to construct chicken coops, in the end, the planners approved verbiage that simply says the coops are to be constructed of “uniform building materials and maintained in a good state of repair.”
The ordinance will now to go the Warsaw Common Council, which meets next at 7 p.m. Monday, March 17.