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Posted on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 9:20 p.m.

Chelsea backyard chicken ordinance moves closer to approval

By Lisa Allmendinger

A draft ordinance that would allow up to four backyard chickens on small lots in Chelsea was approved with minor changes on first reading Tuesday night by a 5-2 vote with Mayor Jason Lindauer and Council Member Rod Anderson voting against it.

“I don’t know why, but four seems to be the magic number,” said City Manager John Hanifan about the choice of allowing four hens - but no roosters.


File photo of a fresh chicken egg.

Chickens will only be allowed on property considered a single-family dwelling by city ordinance and residents must get an annual permit to have the animals.

No one convicted of animal cruelty will be issued a permit.

However, residents living in subdivisions should check their homeowner’s association rules and regulations because some such as Chelsea Fairways, which has covenants and restrictions that prohibit the keeping livestock and poultry.

Although the fee for that permit will be set by the City Council, Hanifan said he expects it to cost between $10 and $20.

In addition to a permit, chicken owners must include drawings of the chicken area, showing its location on the owner’s property as well as proximity to neighboring properties. Council Member Bill Holmberg also asked that information about secure sample coop designs be included “to prevent burrowing critters.”

Chickens shall be kept in a secure, well-ventilated, roofed and lockable structure and the floors and walls shall be kept in a clean and sanitary condition, according to the draft ordinance.

In addition, the enclosure shall be not less than 10 square feet per chicken and it cannot be housed closer than 10 feet from a property line “of an adjacent property nor shall it be located closer than 40 feet to any residential structure on an adjacent property.”

However, as written, that 40-foot requirement to adjacent property can be waived with written statements from all adjacent landowners.

All enclosures must prevent rats, mice and other rodents from living “underneath, within or within the walls of the enclosure,” the proposed ordinance states.

Feed must be stored in a container with a tight lid inside a shed, garage or similar storage structure, and the chickens can only be kept for personal use. Residents will not be able to sell the eggs and chickens cannot be slaughtered.

A permit can be revoked if a person’s chickens are deemed a nuisance, defined as two determined violations in a six-month period. Nuisance complaints include noise, odor, and vermin.

Although he voted against it, Anderson called this draft ordinance “a great improvement,” from what council members had seen previously.

“I’m happy with it,” said Chris Felesky, who has been the voice for a group of backyard chicken advocates who approached the City Council with a request to allow them to keep a few backyard hens in the city for egg production.

Council Member Cheri Albertson told him, “I need to remind you that first reading is not permission to have chickens.”

Currently, the city’s ordinance allows chickens in three city zoning districts - one agricultural and two residential areas - however, homeowners must have at least 5 acres to legally house them.

The ordinance is expected to be back on the agenda for second reading in two weeks at the next regular City Council meeting.

Lisa Allmendinger is a regional reporter for She can be reached at For more Chelsea stories, visit our Chelsea page.


News Watcher

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 7:24 a.m.

Too often, it seems that those in opposition to backyard chickens take the "not in my backyard" mentality without actually bothering to do some research. To those who react negatively without taking the time to visit a backyard coop, picking up a chicken-raising manual to learn more about the care and maintenance of these birds, or just going online and asking questions on a poultry forum such as or the Poultry Club on Facebook, I ask: what gives you the right to deny someone of their right to own a few hens and raise their own eggs, if it doesn't infringe on your personal rights and if you don't know all -- or any -- of the facts?


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:53 p.m.

I'm just gonna house train my chickens...they can use the "chicken/cat door" I put in the back. The cat's not gonna be too happy but they'll work it out!


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 9:01 p.m.

Your cat might be happier than you expect.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

Fear the chickens! Raising chickens is the first step towards self-sufficiency, which annoys our corporatist overlords to no end. Please, won't you think of the bureaucrats?


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:55 p.m.

Just another Ordinance that won't be properly enforced! Why bother? Beside opening the floodgate for a myriad of other normally considered farm animals...... Folks should move to the country if they want to raise livestock.

News Watcher

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 7:21 a.m.

If it doesn't infringe on neighbors' rights, why should it matter to you? Chickens, when kept properly, are FAR cleaner, much less noisy, and FAR less prone to attack or keep the neighbors up at 2 AM with endless barking. Chelsea is an agricultural town, not that this matters since Ann Arbor is not, nor is Bloomfield Heights, or Seattle or any of the other towns and cities across the country that are allowing backyard chickens. If a family chooses to sustain itself a little better by raising its own eggs -- and in the process, fertilizing its garden and getting rid of pest insects naturally -- then more power to them. And if you don't like that backyard chickens are being allowed by more and more towns, perhaps a move to the city would be in order. Then again, New York and Los Angeles DO allow chickens.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

we might be using chickens for bardering and trade before too long...LOL


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:48 p.m.

I like fresh milk from goats and cows, can I have some on my small lot in Chelsea? Cows and Goats can become pets also!

News Watcher

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 7:17 a.m.

Feel free to approach the City Council and argue your case. Be sure to bring research and a draft ordinance. Good luck!

Pete Warburton

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:41 p.m.

Beware Chelsea ! Many experts feel chickens are the " threshold animal ". Allowing chickens opens the door to sheep, lamas, and hogs.

News Watcher

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 7:16 a.m.

You mean ducks, turkeys, and geese. That's the way things usually go, according to stats from the American Poultry Association. And folks who want these will have to fight for their own ordinance adjustment.


Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 1:42 a.m.

I have never heard of any town/city that allows hens being overrun with sheep/llamas/or hogs. But I suppose fear is comforting for some.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

hahahaha! I think you're over-reacting...they have programs specifically designed for cases like that! LOL

John of Saline

Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:03 p.m.

Pygmy goats.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:38 p.m.

Aw, c'mon - by the time they stop laying, they'll be pets.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

This is good. I see that chicken slaughtering is prohibited though. Chickens stop laying when they reach a certain age. I guess you could end up with a flock of four elderly chickens who don't lay. Will people then take them to the Humane Society? Justcurious.

News Watcher

Thu, Mar 15, 2012 : 7:14 a.m.

There are many options for a elderly chicken. First, it's important to remember that hybrids and production hens usually don't live past 2 years because of the toll that their frequent egg laying takes on their bodies. Second, if a hen does reach an age where she no longer lays (usually about age five), if the owners choose to send her to the stew pot, there are USDA-licensed slaughterhouses who will do that work for them. Seeing that most of the Chelseaites will also view their backyard hens as pets, I doubt that will be an option. If they are truly in it for the eggs, they can always Craigslist an older hen -- average rate for a 2-year-old layer is $15, $10 for a 3 year old. Or... if they love their hens, well, then the hens live out their lives and then their bodies get disposed of the same way a beloved dog or cats gets treated.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:55 p.m.

Can you say "WATCH CHICKENS"??? I know geese are a force to be reckoned with...why not chickens?


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

I think when nobody's looking from time to time a chicken might have a fatal accident and need to be disposed of.


Wed, Mar 14, 2012 : 10:58 a.m.

Chelsea, Michigan re: Backyard Chickens got a mention in Time Magazine this week.