New Richmond welcomes chickensChicken ownership is on the rise across the region, partly due to people’s desire to find economical food sources and partly to promote the idea of household sustainability.
By: By Jeff Holmquist, New Richmond News
Why did the chicken move to New Richmond?
Because at Monday’s regular City Council meeting, elected officials voted in favor of allowing residents to own and house up to three chickens. And that’s no joke.
Chicken ownership is on the rise across the region, partly due to people’s desire to find economical food sources and partly to promote the idea of household sustainability. Menomonie recently voted to allow chicken ownership in their community. Places like Amery, Ellsworth and Colfax have allowed city-dwelling chickens for years.
The council first took up the question of allowing chickens within its borders in July when a subcommittee was established to study the matter.
Council member Jane Hansen partnered with City Planning and Community Development Director Robert Barbian and resident Alannah Lovegren-Simon to research the topic and come back with a recommended ordinance for the council to consider.
During a public hearing as part of Monday’s meeting, a few council members and one local resident thought the whole idea was a bit cracked.
Kathleen Earley, an appraiser in town, said allowing chickens in neighborhoods could have a negative impact on property values.
She said the noise and smell resulting from pet chickens could push some neighbors to the boiling point.
“I would not like chickens around me,” Earley said. “I just don’t think the city is the appropriate place for chickens.”
Council member Ron Volkert agreed.
“We got rid of farm animals in the city some years ago,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a good move. They don’t belong in the city, they belong in the country.”
Lovegren-Simon said the ordinance, as recommended, has a number of limitations that would minimize the chance that chickens would become a nuisance to neighbors. She said if residents can only have three chickens at the most, noise and smell issues would be minimal. And hens aren’t that noisy, she explained. “Most of the noise comes from roosters,” she noted.
She also explained that those wanting to raise chickens would have to pay a $75 permit fee, so only serious chicken lovers would likely follow through. Also, 75 percent of a person’s neighbors would have to agree to allowing chickens before a permit can be issued, she said.
Lovegren-Simon said both St. Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota allow residents to own chickens, so it made sense that New Richmond does the same.
“That’s Minneapolis,” Volkert answered. “I care about what’s going on in New Richmond.”
Hansen said opponents to the new chicken ordinance in Menomonie were vocal about the idea at first, but six months later only one or two families now house chickens. She said New Richmond should give the chicken idea a try, and if problems pop up the ordinance can be changed to address the issues.
Council member Jim Zajkowski said the opposition to chickens made little sense when compared to other pets people keep in the community. He suggested that dogs make much more noise and make more of a mess than chickens ever would.
“Is there a ban on dogs?” he asked. “We’re always afraid to give something a chance. When people have ideas, don’t shut them down. Give it a chance.”
Council member Roberta Dale-Wozniak said the city shouldn’t stand in the way of families trying to make ends meet.
“In this economy, if people want to raise three chickens for some eggs, more power to you,” she said.
The motion to approve the ordinance passed on a 4-2 vote. Hansen, Kirk Van Blaircom, Zajkowski and Dale-Wozniak voted for the measure. Volkert and Craig Kittel voted “no.”