Eagan may soon join the growing ranks of Minnesota cities that allow residents to raise and keep backyard chickens, thanks to the efforts of a handful of local activists.
City regulations currently prohibit residents from raising chickens—and other farm or non-domestic animals—in areas not zoned for agricultural use. But Eagan residents Gary Wilkie, Kim Bernard and Linda Kics are on a mission to change that rule; earlier this year, the three petitioned the Eagan City Council to revise its ordinances and allow urban chicken coops.
On Tuesday night, the council began hammering out an ordinance amendment permitting backyard chickens—with some stipulations—in residential areas in Eagan. The proposed ordinance may go before the council once more for final approval later this month, according to Eagan City Administrator Tom Hedges.
The proposed ordinance amendment, as envisioned by the council members, would allow Eagan residents to apply for a permit to raise as many as five chickens in an enclosed coop and attached chicken run. An application to raise chickens would likely cost $50, and owners would be subject to inspections at the time of the initial application and during an annual renewal process.
Eagan isn't the only nearby city to weigh or pass a similar rule. Burnsville, Rosemount and Bloomington already allow urban chickens, according to a survey conducted by city staff, and Inver Grove Heights briefly considered a rule change of its own last year.
Few of those cities dealt with a large volume of complaints from neighbors regarding smell or noise, according to Eagan City Clerk Christina Scippioni, who was responsible for surveying 17 communities that have already passed such an ordinance.
The council's decision to pursue the proposed ordinance amendment sits well with Bernard and Wilkie, who collected more than 100 signatures from Eagan residents and others in support of an ordinance change.
Backyard chickens, Bernard and Wilkie argue, are a “low-impact pet” that can produce eggs for consumption and serve as organic insect and weed control. Properly managed, a small flock of hens is relatively quiet, clean and can become a neighborhood attraction, Wilkie and Bernard said following the meeting.
Wilkie, who was skeptical about the idea of urban chickens, said he changed his mind while touring existing urban chicken coops in St. Paul.
"I think I had the preconceived ideas of the noise, the smell, dirtiness, all that which probably came from the concept of a farm," Wilkie said. "Visiting the backyards [during the chicken coop tour]—and these were not immaculate backyards—but they were very attractive backyards."
"It’s a real community builder, it was a really fascinating thing," Bernard said of urban chicken coops. "Having backyard chickens, a lot of people make the initial assumption that it will be a chicken farm, but that’s kind of like saying if you’re going to get a dog, you’ll get a puppy mill."
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