Warsaw Plan Commission members are overwhelmingly supporting an informal proposal to allow the keeping of hens in the city limits.
James Bausch first brought the idea to the Warsaw Common Council last week (see related). On Monday night, the Warsaw Plan Commission heard Bausch’s idea and listened to a few others who also support the idea of “urban hens” for the purpose of providing healthy food and nutrition to their families.
Before beginning discussions, assistant city planner Tim Dombrosky told the WPC members, “We’re here to mitigate the external effects of chicken keeping. If it doesn’t affect the neighbors and the community at large then it’s not necessarily an issue the plan commission needs to discuss.”
Patrick Loebs read a statement from Ellen Schwendeman who said she was unknowingly violating city code by keeping hens in her backyard. While the benefits of raising hens are easily identified by nutritionalists, she said there are other benefits. In her statement read by Loebs she said, “My hens brought my neighbors and I closer together. They saved food scraps to bring my girls … they brought their grandchildren to visit my coop. I shared eggs with my neighbors. My chickens forged a closer relationship with the community.”
In his own plea for the city, Loebs said he moved from Memphis, Tenn., where chickens were allowed to be raised. “Hens don’t crow. They provide all sorts of benefits to the area like free fertilizer for gardens. They eat the mosquitoes, ticks, they eat fleas out of the yard,” he said. “There’s really very little that can go wrong with chickens. Occasionally a hawk will carry one off, but that’s really no detriment to the community at large.”
The largest group of those who would be interested in raising hens for nutritional purposes are between the ages of 20 and 40, said Bausch. Over 65 percent of major metropolitan areas allow chickens, and the small number of attendees of last night’s meeting were there to encourage the planners to pursue an ordinance allowing for hen keeping.
Although no one on the plan commission balked at the idea, there were some concerns that they directed Dombrosky to address in a formal proposal. Jeff Grose said, “We need to be a good neighbor to those who want to raise hens, but we need to be a good neighbor to the others we serve. We need to be very clear on what we will try and allow.”
While no proposal has yet been drafted, Dombrosky said anyone applying for a permit to raise hens in the city limits will be required to participate in a class through the Purdue Extension. Limits on the number of hens allowed will also be determined and, as Grose noted, standards for chicken coops should also be established. All agreed that the coops should be enclosed and their should be some kind of structural requirements.
Nuisance issues such as noise, waste and even potential problems with predator animals such as coyote, fox and dogs will also need to be addressed as the proposal is drafted and further discussed in public forums.
The formal proposal will be presented to the WPC at the next regular meeting on Monday, March 10. Meetings are held in the city hall beginning at 7 p.m.