By Stephanie Wapner, Photos Courtesy of Carole Topalian
Backyard chicken coops have become an increasingly common sight around Columbus and its neighboring cities. Michelle Wight, co-owner of City Folks’ Farm Shop, explains that chickens are an ideal backyard farm animal. The coops are inexpensive to build and can be adapted to include features such as automated doors, feeding and watering systems.
For many owners, however, feeding and watering their chickens is part of the joy of raising them. Jessica and Andrew Mills of Bexley enjoy the routine of spending time caring for their chickens, and engage their young daughter in the process as well. “The chickens are like pets, we name them and spend time with them,” Jessica says, “and each has a distinct personality.”
Until recently there was only limited city legislation regulating backyard chicken coops, but currently the city of Columbus is working to introduce new legislation designed to alleviate possible public health concerns and meet industry animal welfare standards. The number of permit requests for domestic chickens increased steadily from 2010 to 2014, and the number of noise and odor complaints increased simultaneously.
The proposed regulations address health and other community concerns by limiting the size of backyard coop structures and the number of chickens per square foot. Managing the permit process and administering yearly inspections requires additional staff and funding. Rebecca Lyons of Columbus Public Health (CPH) pointed out that not all owners comply with the permit process, so the health implications may be greater than the data suggests.
The initial regulations include a limit of 64 total square feet for the coop and adjacent run, and those keeping laying hens will be limited to 8 birds. The city also proposed adding an initial permit fee of $125, plus a $75 mandatory annual review fee, a one-time fee of $50 to review the coop plans and annual veterinary bills.
Rebecca says that not only were the increased fees controversial, but some residents with larger than average lots want to be able to use their space to keep more birds.
After the initial proposal was presented to the Columbus Public Health Board, community activists worked closely with CPH administrators to make the regulations more flexible for residents with more space. Columbus Public Health sought feedback via public meetings, email invitations for comment and meetings with external stakeholders.
As a result of that collaboration, the revised regulations provide a “grandfathering provision” making it easier for existing owners to come into compliance with the new regulations, increased the allowable free-roaming time from 1 to 2 hours per day, reduced the annual fee to $37.50 and decreased the frequency of inspections from every year to every 4 years.
The process of approving this legislation is ongoing. The revisions were presented to the board on Tuesday, July 19, 2016 but have not yet been voted into action. Columbus Public Health is still accepting feedback and input from the community.
For more information, or to submit your thoughts, please visit: https://www.columbus.gov/publichealth/programs/Animal---Insects/Animal-Permits/