Batavia backyard chicken request passes first test

Published: 8/11/2010 12:00 AM

A Batavia city council committee gave residents hope Tuesday that chickens could be raised legally in backyards in town someday soon.

The community development committee ordered work on the details of changing city law, using research presented Tuesday by advocates of backyard cluckers.

"Personally, I've lived next to four to six chickens for the past several years and can speak highly of how they are in the backyard and how they (the neighbors) deal with them. My daughter has taken care of them and walked around with one in her arms," said committee Vice Chairman Alan Wolff, a 2nd Ward alderman.

Fourth Ward Alderman Jim Volk, who is not on the committee, said he also favors the request.

"Certainly I've learned these free-range chickens and eggs taste better," he said.

He cautioned that he doesn't want to see people raising chickens for profit.

"Eight (hens) seems more or less OK. I'm a city cat; I don't know how many eggs they produce a day."

He also thinks any ordinance should address the keeping of other fowl.

"Once someone gets chickens, someone is going to want a goose," he said.

Batavia law prohibits keeping fowl within 200 feet of any building used as a residence, except that of the owner, or within 200 feet of any city street or alley.

The women making the request presented slides of current coops and runs in the city, a survey of neighbors about odor and noise, information about the improved nutritional value of what are called "pastured" eggs over those from chickens raised only on grain, and data about how far current coops and runs are kept from neighbors. They suggested Batavia allow only hens, not roosters, to keep noise down.

They also passed around two ramekins - one containing a pastured egg and one a supermarket egg - so committee members could compare the color, size and height of the yolks. Besides grain feed, backyard chickens also eat table scraps and insects.

Betsy Thelin Zinser, one of the women asking for the change, said she and Jen Warta visited chicken-keepers unannounced, so the owners had no opportunity to spiff the places up. All the coops were clean, she said.

Warta said the farthest they noticed an odor was 7 feet from the coop, after a heavy rain, and that it was an "earthy" smell. The average was 2 feet, she said.

Once a formal recommendation is completed, it will be brought back to the committee for public discussion.

Chickens: Sorry, roosters; you're too noisy