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Posted on Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Chelsea City Council to consider draft backyard chicken ordinance Tuesday night

By Lisa Allmendinger

Tuesday night, the Chelsea City Council will consider a proposed backyard chicken ordinance with regulations that would allow four hens and require owners to get an annual permit from the city.

Chris Feleskey and a group of backyard chicken advocates would like to keep a few backyard hens in the city for egg production. They have met repeatedly with the City Council in the hopes of having changed the city's ordinance, which only allows them chickens in certain zoning districts on 5 acres or more of land.

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.

Last year, the city’s Planning Commission discussed and reviewed a possible change in the ordinance and voted to leave the current ordinance in place.

However, two weeks ago, after another plea by the backyard chicken group, a majority of the council members directed City Manager John Hanifan to draft an ordinance that would permit backyard chickens on small lots.

In part, the proposed ordinance includes the following stipulations. Chickens would be allowed on single-family residences only and no roosters would be allowed.

Those who wish to own chickens must pay a permit fee and include drawings of the chicken area, its location on the owner’s property as well as in relation to neighboring properties.

“Chickens shall be provided with a secure, well-ventilated, roofed and lockable structure and the floors and walls shall be kept in a clean and sanitary condition,” the proposed ordinance states.

The floor area of the fenced pen, run or 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.

“Permits must be include an attached drawing, including the distances to neighboring structures and the proposed location of all enclosures that will be used to keep backyard chickens,” the ordinance states.

All enclosures must be constructed or repaired to prevent rats, mice and other rodents from being harbored underneath, within or within the walls of the enclosure,” the proposed ordinance states.

Feed must be stored in a tightly lidded container in a shed, garage or similar storage structure, and the chickens can only be kept for personal use. No slaughtering of chickens will be allowed.

Before any chickens will be allowed on a property, a permit with a non-refundable annual fee must be obtained and it is not transferable. The permit can be revoked for failing to follow all the stipulation in the proposed ordinance.

“The City of Chelsea may revoke a permit if a person’s chickens become a nuisance, defined as two determined violations … in a six-month period,” the proposed ordinance states.

These complaints include noise, odor and vermin.

No one who has been convicted of animal cruelty will be allowed to raise chickens in the city.

Ann Arbor and Milan, for example, allow residents to have a limited number of backyard chickens. How this proposed ordinance will be enforced is one of several concerns expressed by council members who have reservations about allowing the keeping of backyard chickens in small lots in the city.

Several council members have talked of the “slippery slope” issue and asked what happens if other groups of specific animal lovers lobby the city to allow, for instance, ducks or goats or pigs on their property?

The City Council meets at 7 p.m. at the Washington Street Education Center, 500 Washington St.

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



Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 5:10 p.m.

Even Madison, Wisconsin allows chickens in the city - and that's a bit larger city than Chelsea and Ann Arbor combined. How many 5 acre lots are located in Chelsea? There can't be that many, can there?


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

As long as there are no roosters it should work out. Roosters are very noisy. Have some nearby, actually quite a ways away and they sound like a child wailing sometimes. You better make sure the hen house is nice and tight. You are going to see coyotes and fox all over your pens.


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

I agree with Ross...better than nothing. Did I miss how much the permit is proposed to be? I think it should be nominal. How 'bout "pick of the litter?' LOL

John of Saline

Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

What about backyard turkeys?


Tue, Mar 13, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

Pretty strict. Better than nothing, though.