The Fairhope City Council will consider passing an ordinance to allow and regulate the keeping of domestic poultry in single family residential zones in the city at its next regular meeting. The council introduced the ordinance at a meeting Thursday, but did not vote on it because two members were absent.
This week’s meeting had been postponed from its regular time on Monday because three members – Rich Mueller, Diana Brewer and Kevin Boone – were out of town. On Thursday, Brewer was present but Mueller and Boone were absent.
Planning director Jonathan Smith told the council the ordinance would allow residents who live on lots larger than 7,800 square feet to keep as many as four hens on their property. Hens could be kept for non-commercial purposes only and breeding and slaughtering hens will not be allowed.
According to the ordinance, hens will be allowed to be kept in enclosed backyards during daylight hours but must be kept in a henhouse at night. Roosters, crowing hens, peafowl or waterfowl will not be allowed.
Councilwoman Diana Brewer said she has received a good amount of interest about the proposed ordinance, which was originally discussed at a work session in July.
“Since we introduced this a couple months ago I’ve had so many people ask me about it,” Brewer said. “I think it is going to be very well received.”
The ordinance also includes requirements related to design, forcing owners to make sure any henhouse is impermeable to rodents and predators, elevated to at least 18 inches above ground and with a fence at least five feet tall and buried two feet in the ground. The total area of the henhouse can be no more than 36 square feet, surrounded by a fenced run no more than 80 square feet in area. Henhouses must be maintained and kept in a sanitary condition.
During the work session prior to Thursday’s meeting, Brewer said she was uncomfortable with some of the design requirements, noting that those who choose to keep hens should already know how to keep rodents out of the hen house without a city regulation.
“It seems extremely technical and too stringent,” Brewer said. “It seems like we could really simplify the design requirements.”
Smith said the design requirements are in the ordinance to ensure owners know how to keep rodents away.
In the event of a nuisance complaint related to noise, odors or pest infestation, the city’s animal control service, code enforcement, police department and the Baldwin County Health Department will be given the responsibility of determining whether a residential henhouse could be considered a nuisance to a neighbor.
Chicken coops will not be subjected to the city’s building code of regulations like a shed, according to Smith. The city doesn’t issue permits for dog houses or similar structures, according to building official Eric Cortinas.
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