Chickens may come home to roost in Chandler - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chickens may come home to roost in Chandler

February 2nd, 2022 development
Chickens may come home to roost in Chandler

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

It appears chickens will be coming to roost at Chandler single-family homes this year.

During a study session Jan. 13, Chandler City Council took its first look at the issue and most members indicated they would support changing ordinances to allow up to five chickens at a residential home.

Only Councilmember Matt Orlando showed hesitation, saying he wanted to look at more data to ensure it would not become a problem for neighbors.

“I’m neither for or against this,” Orlando said. “I don’t want to create a problem. There are bad actors out there, too. We see it in our code enforcement all the time, we see it in our police force all the time. So how do we protect those neighbors that have a bad actor living next door? That’s all I’m suggesting.”

Under current law, chickens are allowed on lots with at least 33,000 square feet. If the Council changes the ordinance, most of Chandler would still not be able to house chickens in their backyards because 71.5% of the city is covered by homeowners associations and most of them have rules against it.

So, any change would mostly impact residents who do not belong to a HOA.

Chandler and Avondale are among the few Valley cities that do not allow backyard chickens. Gilbert, Queen Creek, Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale, Phoenix and Maricopa County all allow at least five chickens on single-family lots.

Councilmember OD Harris said he saw little difference between owning chickens and owning dogs or cats.

“I agree with Councilmember Harris, chickens are pets,” said Councilman Mark Stewart. “They’re not as smelly as dogs. I mean, dogs are pretty bad, especially with neighbors who don’t pick up their backyards. And you can have 90 of them if you wanted. So, let’s choose the side of freedom on this one.”

Based on the direction from Council, city staff will begin work on proposing changes to city ordinances. The earliest the change could be adopted would be this summer.

Here’s what they are looking to do:

• Allow chickens on all single-family lots (HOAs could still ban them).

• Allow a maximum of five hens, no roosters.

• Chickens must be contained by enclosure; no trespassing upon other  properties or street.

• Any chicken coop exceeding 120 square feet, or nine feet in height would require a building code.

Any coop connected to utilities (water or electricity) would require a permit.

• Change any violations from a misdemeanor to civil citation.

• Repeal requirement of written consent by neighbors living within 200 feet of the animals.

Staff suggested allowing police to respond to noise complaints about loud chickens. However, the councilmembers were against the idea. They made it clear they wanted code enforcement to handle any issues and let the police focus on stopping crime.

City staff plans to research and propose actual changes to ordinances as the next step. It will post them for public comment in newspapers and on the city’s website this spring.

Once that step is complete, it would go to the planning and zoning this summer. If it advances from there, Council could take it up soon after.

News of City Council’s change of heart was greeted by Shannon Ellingson, who with her husband spent about $3,000 building a chicken coop and then buying eight hens. City inspectors saw her chickens and told her she’d have to get rid of them, which she did.

The couple’s initial investment came in the very early days of the pandemic as many people panicked and there were runs at the grocery store, making basic goods like toilet paper impossible to find.

Grocery stores responded by limiting how many of some high-demand items people could buy. One of those was a limit of a dozen eggs per customer.

That’s when she and her husband decided to get their own egg supply, figuring that if they built a coop in their backyard and filled it with a half dozen chickens, then they wouldn’t have to worry about eggs being rationed at grocery stores.

So, they built a coop and bought eight chickens that ended up producing about five to six eggs a day. Her husband supplied the labor. Everything worked out perfectly.

Ellingson got a notice in the mail telling her chickens are not allowed in residential areas in the city.

“Chandler has what they call a permissive code and because under our zoning it doesn’t specifically say that you can have poultry or farm animals or anything because we’re not in an agricultural zone … if it doesn’t specifically say you can, then you can’t,” she said.

Ellingson said it’s not a cost-saving move because it costs about the same to feed and house the chickens as it did to buy eggs at the store.

Ellingson said she sold her eight chickens and her coop is empty.

Her neighbors continued to support her owning chickens, she said. They would even help corral them when one would escape the back yard, which happened a couple of times before they clipped their wings.

After attending the Jan. 13 meeting, Ellingson said, “I was encouraged by the support that was there, but half of the council is still undecided.”

She thought the limit of five hens seemed fair.

“I can understand that, even though personally I think we can manage more than that. We could use more, but if it simplifies things, and helps get it passed, then that’s fine.”