Chicken lovers prepare to be disappointed.
During its meeting Tuesday the Red Wing Advisory Planning Commission was asked to consider whether residents should be allowed to raise chickens — hens but not roosters — in their backyards.
The commission took a pass.
While some commissioners were quite skeptical of the notion, others said it might not be such a bad idea. But most agreed crafting a proper ordinance would be more trouble than it would be worth.
“I see a lot of regulations to make this even somewhat agreeable to the whole neighborhood,” Commissioner Heidi Jones said.
Most commissioners said crafting a good ordinance would eat up a lot of city planners’ time, and most also agreed regulations would be tough to enforce.
“It would be difficult to enforce something in people’s backyards,” Red Wing Assistant Planner Steve Kohn said. “Some people will keep a clean coop, but others I can guarantee you, will not.”
Chickens are currently considered farm animals under Red Wing law and as such aren’t allowed as pets in residential areas.
Red Wing resident Shannon Tarr asked City Council earlier this year to revise the city’s law to allow chickens and geese pets. Tarr has been cited several times by police for having chickens in her backyard.
In addition to Tarr, there have been two other residents who’ve recently been cited for raising chickens in town, according to Kohn.
Of late, however, Tarr has been the only outspoken proponent of raising chickens in town.
“I think we need a little more groundswell from chicken growers,” Planning commissioner Scott Vaughn said, before planning officials consider revising the law.
The commission took no official action Tuesday, but it did take an informal vote. Commissioners Vaughn, Jones, Dave Lewis, and Chair Scott Safe voted to leave the issue alone.
“I’d like to tell the city council, ‘don’t go there,’” Safe said.
Commissioners Scot Johnson and Roseanne Grosso said they would be willing to consider allowing chickens in residential neighborhoods. Commissioner Jeff McDowell had to leave the meeting before the vote.
The chicken debate is not over, however.
Red Wing’s Sustainability Commission will take a look at the issue in the coming weeks. The matter will go before the city council in either November or December, Kohn said.
In a presentation to the commission, Kohn said raising chickens in one’s backyard is a growing trend across the nation and in Minnesota. Several nearby cities including Rosemount, Rochester, Minneapolis and St. Paul allow resident to raise chickens in residential areas.
Kohn said chickens are most commonly raised for egg production and not for slaughter. He said the practice appeals to people who favor local food production.
Tarr, however, says the chicks she raises help in the therapy of her young son who suffers from a severe case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Kohn also said allowing pet chickens in residential areas has lead to quarrels amongst neighbors. Neighbors have complained of loud noises and foul smells coming from the chickens, he said.
“Obviously this is a subject that doesn’t have a simple answer,” Kohn said.