Hen owners crowing over draft legislation

Hen owners crowing over draft legislation

Hens-smallerFour hens per acre better than one for the pot

The town once called Cowford is one step closer to sharing a new commonality with the progressive metropolises of Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, but not with an urban amenity – instead by reconnecting with its rural roots and the chickens that historically clucked upon them.

Last month Ordinance No. 2013-415, which would allow single family homeowners to have up to four backyard hens, was filed, delighting hen advocates who have long pleaded for City government “to give peeps a chance.”

“I’ll be ecstatic when this is over and done,” said Riverside resident Genora Crain-Orth, who has been involved in the campaign to legalize backyard hens. “Decades ago, local residents, both rural and urban, depended on hens to produce eggs to nourish their families. There is no reason that we should not have the same rights today to take advantage, right in our own backyards, of the benefits of these wonderful pets.”

The legislation sponsored by Councilmen Don Redman and Doyle Carter states that no more than four hens will be allowed on a single family dwelling unless the property is larger than one acre. For such properties, four additional hens are permitted per each additional half acre.  Roosters, the animals notorious for their boisterous crowing, will only be allowed in agricultural and rural residential districts.

The draft legislation also requires hen owners to provide a shelter for their flock, cautioning against allowing chickens “to run at large upon streets, alleys or other public places, or upon the property of any other person.” The City would deem such runaway chickens as a nuisance and their owners would be subject to standard nuisance laws.

According to minutes from the June 11 meeting, Councilman Redman does not anticipate any problems as long as chickens are kept on their owner’s property.

Lauren Trad, a San Jose resident who founded Hens in JAX, the nonprofit grass-roots group organized to change the existing ordinance to legalize backyard hens, said she believes people shouldn’t be restricted from doing something that doesn’t cause any problems.

“Having hens doesn’t cause an issue. This ordinance is written to protect the animals and the neighbors,” Trad said. “People should be given the opportunity to do the right thing – they should be given a chance to follow the laws.”

Crain-Orth agrees. “Noise and odor ordinances already exist to protect neighbors should negligent hen owners not properly manage their pets.”

The ordinance is scheduled for review by the Land Use and Zoning Committee on July 16. Trad said she is optimistic that things will move quickly and smoothly from this point.
“I would have never thought this would have taken this long or been this hard,” said Trad. “Large cities all over the country are allowed to keep hens and are doing it without any problems. People want these rights.”

If all goes as planned, Jacksonville will soon join the ranks of other big cities, simply by coming home to roost on its rural origins.
Visit the Hens in JAX Facebook page to stay informed about the proposed legislation.

By Lara Patangan
Resident Community News

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