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Posted on Wed, Jul 13, 2011 : 6:45 a.m.

Should Chelsea allow city residents to own laying hens? The discussion will continue

By Lisa Allmendinger


Supporters of allowing backyard chickens in Chelsea gather outside the council chambers after a work session with the Chelsea City Council.

Lisa Allmendinger |

They had snacks, a sense of humor and plenty of passion, but it wasn't enough to come to a consensus on whether to allow backyard chickens in Chelsea.

The Chelsea City Council tackled the question in a work session Tuesday night, but decided another one will be needed before moving forward on the issue.

Chris Felesky and a group advocating allowing chickens wore bright green name tags that read “Legalize Backyard Hens,” to the session and Council member Bill Holmberg arrived wearing a foam chicken hat and carrying barbecue chicken wings and nuggets for everyone to munch on.

The chicken supporters, numbering about 25, and city officials discussed a number of issues involved in the request that would change the current law that allows chickens in three city zoning districts — one agricultural and two residential areas. However, homeowners must own at least 5 acres to legally house them.


Chelsea City Council member Bill Holmberg got into the spirit of the backyard discussion.

Lisa Allmendinger |

The group wants the city to allow residents anywhere in the city to have up to six hens for egg laying. Members are not asking that roosters be allowed.

Felesky said he was hoping the City Council would consider “an ordinance that was as unrestrictive as possible and see where problems arise.”

However, Chelsea Mayor Jason Lindauer said it was incumbent on both the Planning Commission and the City Council to foresee potential problems and minimize the impact for all 5,000 residents in the city.

The Planning Commission considered a previous request by a different group of residents in 2009, and Council member Cheri Albertson said she had attended both the regular meetings and the work sessions of the Planning Commission when the first request was discussed.

“From my perspective, there was personal opinion being used. I don’t believe that at that work session, (the issue) was given due diligence,” she said, adding that she didn’t have an opinion on the issue either way. No action was taken. An additional work session is planned because City Council ran out of time before its regular meeting to finish the discussion.

Among the issues discussed by the group were:

  • Who would enforce good animal husbandry and deal with complaints from neighbors?
  • Can the city limit an ordinance to just chickens?
  • Will neighbors be given a say in whether they want chickens next door?
  • Where in the city would chicken ownership be allowed?
  • Should the group become an association to assist the city in educating and overseeing the proper care of the animals?
  • Will allowing chickens make Chelsea a better place to live?
  • Will allowing chickens increase or decrease property values in the city?
  • How does the city protect the public health against potential rodent problems?


Tags worn by Chelsea Backyard Chicken supporters.

Lisa Allmendinger |,

Chelsea Planning Commission Chairman George Kinzer said in 2009, planners looked at what was allowed in several cities including Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, Dexter Village and several townships.

When the Planning Commission last visited the issue, the cities of Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti allowed chickens. Dexter and Manchester Village and Ypsilanti Township either did not allow them or restricted livestock.

Milan has since adopted zoning regulations that allows a limited number of hens but does not allow roosters.

Council member Rod Anderson asked if the City Council allows chickens, what happens when “Ducks Unlimited comes to us to allow ducks, and the following week Goats Unlimited comes in. What about rabbits? Where do we draw the line?” he asked.

Lindauer asked how officials could ensure that the city not be challenged in court if it limits residents to owning just chickens and not guinea fowl or peacocks or turkeys or ducks. “I’m not sure how we would clearly distinguish between one fowl and another.”

One member of the group said the city could differentiate among species by using terms such as waterfowl, ornamental or game birds, for instance, while Felskey said that many people who own chickens view them as pets, rather than livestock.

City manager John Hanifan said the safety and welfare of all residents comes first and “chasing bad guys will have a higher priority” than any chicken complaints.

He said there are more than 2,000 lots in the city and the city must keep an eye on whether the grass is mowed. In considering any ordinance change, everyone’s best interests must be considered.

“There are 25 people here trying to promote change, but there are 5,000 residents in town. An ordinance tries to be fair to everyone,” he said.

A date for another work session was not determined.

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


News Watcher

Fri, Feb 10, 2012 : 10:44 p.m.

"City manager John Hanifan said the safety and welfare of all residents comes first and "chasing bad guys will have a higher priority" than any chicken complaints." So... how does this explain what happened to Roen Montalva and Tim Farmer, who were faced with jail time and a $500 fine for having backyard hens? Were the police having a slow day?


Wed, Jul 13, 2011 : 8:44 p.m.

Chickens wouldn't stink up a backyard as much as a couple of large dogs.

C. Holland

Wed, Jul 13, 2011 : 2:47 p.m.

There has been very good coverage by the local media of this issue and the meeting was well publicized. It is hard for me to believe that if there is a large, vocal opposition to chickens, none of them came last night. I think it's more likely that the 4,975 people who were not there are not that concerned about whether their neighbors have chickens as long as there's a reasonable ordinance that prevents the chickens from becoming a public nuisance.

sun runner

Wed, Jul 13, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

I would much rather hear some hens softly clucking nearby than the stupid yappy dog that resides a few doors down from me.


Wed, Jul 13, 2011 : 12:09 p.m.

Good Luck Chelsea! We are outside the city limits so not an issue for us. Love our hens!