NORMAN — City council considers amending code
The Norman City Council discussed a possible ordinance to allow chickens in residential areas. The Tuesday study session meeting is a non-voting opportunity for discussion and education on topics likely to come before the council in future votes.
The proposed chicken ordinance would allow chickens in R-1 areas under strict circumstances. City staff suggested guidelines to include only laying hens. Roosters would not be allowed. No more than four chickens would be allowed, according to the suggested wording of the ordinance. However, the ordinance to amend city code did not address how many total animals a person could have in a single R-1 household.
The laying hens would not be allowed free range of the yard but would need to be kept in an enclosure at least five feet away from property lot lines and 25 feet away from the neighboring residence, according to city staff recommendations.
The enclosure or coop would need to be screened to prevent the spread of disease by flies or vermin and to protect the chickens. The coop would be at least four square feet per chicken, and outdoor slaughter of chickens would be prohibited, according to the recommendation.
City council member Tom Kovach asked if the ordinance could be expanded to include pygmy goats, which he said are “innocuous animals.”
“They’re a dog-sized animal that I don’t think makes the noise of a dog,” Kovach said.
Kovach said he would like to “kill two birds with one stone.”
Mayor Cindy Rosenthal expressed concern about chicken droppings though staff recommended that chicken coop floors be of “easily-cleanable construction” and maintained in “sanitary condition not offensive or dangerous to the public health by routinely cleaning and properly disposing of droppings.”
However, enforcement would primarily be pursued, as in the case of most city code enforcement, only if neighbors complained.
“As to killing two birds, the outside killing of birds is prohibited,” Rosenthal joked.
Connors said chicken droppings do contain nitrate.
Rosenthal said she would like city staff to look at the gray water requirements and consider adding similar protections with chicken droppings regarding setbacks from floodways.
Marc Jensen, a member of the public who works at the University of Oklahoma in continuing education dealing with lean manufacturing, asked that the proposed coop be defined more clearly in the ordinance.
“The picture of sustainability is complex,” Jensen said. “It involves building systems.”
Ecosystems self-manage, Jensen said.
In addition to providing eggs, chickens are prized for eating ticks, mosquitoes, fly larvae, fleas, lawn grubs, aphids, slugs and other bugs, including those that damage gardens. They are credited with decreasing the need for toxic pesticides, which is a growing concern in Norman.
Multiple sources online address the use of chickens for pest control, but cooped chickens would not be useful in this manner.
Goats are commonly prized as low carbon-footprint lawn mowers, but, like chickens, goats leave droppings.
Council members said they currently have no data on how the potential pollution of additional animal droppings would balance with the benefits chickens or goats might offer as Norman continues to look toward green solutions for the city’s future.