‘What are you, chicken?’

Posted 5/12/21

by Bruce Karnick [email protected] It is unlawful for any person to keep any animal, not in transit, in any part of the city not zoned for agricultural purposes. (A) Exceptions. (1) Chickens …

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‘What are you, chicken?’


by Bruce Karnick

[email protected]

It is unlawful for any person to keep any animal, not in transit, in any part of the city not zoned for agricultural purposes. (A) Exceptions. (1) Chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus) subject to § 155.07. (Prior Code, § 9.29) That portion of the City of Hastings ordinances says that chickens are allowed in the city limits. But there is a catch. Later in the ordinance it says “four chickens are allowed per acre. Chickens are prohibited on properties less than one acre.”

To put one acre in perspective, the Midtown Center parking lot is slightly under an acre. Another way to look at it, the playing surface of a football field is roughly one acre.

Utilizing the Dakota County Graphic Information System map, the overwhelming majority of homes in Hastings are on lots significantly smaller than one acre. If 10% of the homes inby side Hastings’s city limits have one acre or more of land, that would be shocking.

Even if you guess conservatively at 85% percent of the homes being under one acre, that means 85% of the homes in Hastings cannot keep chickens as pets under the current ordinance. Hastings resident Kori Colvin is looking to change that, and he’s launched a petition drive to ask the City Council to loosen restrictions.

Chickens as pets?

Chickens as pets? But why? Backyard chickens are beneficial to the community that they live in because they: Offer fresh, locally sourced eggs (that are healthier compared to store-bought eggs).

Can help to provide nutritious food security for lower income families.

Provide gardeners with high-quality fertilizer.

Help control insects and other pests.

Control weeds without the use of chemicals and insecticides.

Disposal of kitchen scraps that would otherwise go into a landfill.

Chickens provide value as a pet for adults and children.

As you can see above, there are quite a few benefits to having backyard chickens, plus, they are a pretty cool pet. Mendota Heights went through this in 2017. Spearheaded by two residents looking to keep chickens of their own, they helped change the ordinances four years ago and as one of the organizers put it, “here we are four years later, and the sky hasn’t fallen.”

Visiting his home in Mendota Heights, it is not noticeable from the street that he raises chickens. When you get on the deck of his home you might notice, but that’s only because you see a chicken or two chilling in the sun or begging for popcorn. Other than that, you can’t tell the chickens are there. There is no smell, no rooster screaming, just a couple birds rustling their feathers or cooing.

What are the common misconceptions about having chickens as backyard pets?

They're noisy.

Chickens will peep and cluck softly during the daylight but are silent at night. A small number of chickens are not noisy, hens in particular. A dogs bark is 90 decibels, and our city allows three dogs which has a cumulative maximum possible noise level of 100 decibels. A hen’s laying song is 60 decibels so it would take 12 hens producing noise at the same time to produce more noise than one dog. Plus, The hens typically lay their eggs inside the coop, blocking even more of the sound.

They smell.

It would be the owner’s responsibility to keep the coop clean, but on average a small flock of chickens will poop about as much as an average dog in a day. According to the Extension from University of Nevada, composted chicken manure 'provides a slowrelease source of macro- and micronutrients and acts as a soil amendment. Compared to other manures, chicken manure and the associated litter are higher in nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and calcium, and are also rich in organic matter.'

They attract predators.

While not truly a misconception, it can be easily remedied by the chicken owner. Chickens are not only food for humans, but they can also be food for a number of predators as well. It is the responsibility of the chicken owner to keep his/her flock contained and safe from predators, just as the same responsibility falls on cat and dog owners.

They attract pests.

If chicken food was not properly kept, it can attract unwanted animals (mice). However, a homeowner can make the same mistake by doing a bad job of composting, providing birdseed, putting out cat or dog food. Chickens also help by eating insects, many known to cause disease (ticks and mosquitoes).

You need a rooster for hens to lay eggs.

This is untrue, and the only reason you would need a rooster would be for reproduction. Hens will still lay eggs without a rooster present, and different species lay different amounts of eggs a year.

Spending time with some chickens in Mendota Heights was surprisingly relaxing. Watching them go about their business eating bugs and basking in the sun just gave a sense of calm. Then, all of a sudden, there was a realization. There was no buzz of mosquitos in the air. Not once had a mosquito left its mark. Perhaps Veterans Park should invest in some chickens to help with the bugs out there?

The neighbors of the friend in Mendota Heights enjoy the chickens too. They get free eggs when the chickens lay too many, and they get a more bug free yard. Some even sit on their deck and enjoy watching them do their thing. It’s been a win win for the neighborhood.

If you do not want to keep your own but still want to help, please take a look at the Facebook page behind the fight to bring chickens to Hastings. https://www.facebook.com/groups/hastingsbackyardchickens There you will find a link to their online petition and so many more details about the benefits of backyard chickens, including a copy of the text of the chicken ordinance from Mendota Heights that they are looking to emulate.

Don’t be a chicken, sign the petition, let people have backyard chickens!

A few yardbirds are waiting for their chance to cluck their opinions to the Hastings City Council.