2013-09-05 / News Briefs

Chickens Get Cluck of Approval

By Tom Shevlin

Urban farmers rejoice: It’s no longer a criminal act to keep backyard chickens in Newport.

After months of rewrites and revisions, City Council members last week voted to allow by right the raising and keeping of chickens on certain residential properties throughout the city.

In adopting an amendment to Chapter 17.100 of the city’s codified ordinances, Newport became the latest in a growing number of both urban and suburban communities to condone chicken keeping as an acceptable use in residential zones.

The ordinance, which was developed by Planning Board members and refined by the solicitor’s office, stipulates that only chicken hens be permitted (roosters are not welcome) and that there be no more than six birds per property.

Previously, only large properties such as those found on Ocean Drive, were permitted to keep chickens.

But with a growing urban farming movement taking root here – and a corresponding uptick in the number of chicken-related cases taking up time in municipal court – councilors saw fit to adjust their posture.

Second Ward Councilor Justin S. McLaughlin started the chicken ordinance review earlier this year after hearing of several constituents who were facing stiff fines for keeping chickens in their backyards.

“I’m delighted to see that the city solicitor’s office will no longer be in the business of criminalizing the owning of chickens,” McLaughlin said. “We have had people in municipal court over the last few years and this I think provides all the safeguards we need."

Bliss Mine Road resident Saskia Standish lauded the council for their decision and said that she believes the ordinance provides a good framework for both chicken owners and those who might live next door.

“I’m very happy to see that this is on the agenda,” Standish said, adding that the language of the ordinance was very clear. “Hopefully we can go along and get chickens in Newport!”

For those so inclined, the city has developed a path to chicken keeping.

To begin, chickens – no matter if they number one or six – must be housed in a conforming chicken coop and fenced outdoor enclosure.

According to the ordinance, all hen houses must be “covered, predator resistant, and well-ventilated,” with a minimum of two square-feet per chicken and may not exceed 8 feet in height and 64-square feet in area.

Additionally, coops must be “kept dry, free from decaying food, dirty water, and fecal matter and sanitary at all times” and manure kept in secure, covered bins.

As a secondary guard against contamination, the ordinance further requires that the hen house must be kept on a permeable surface in order to prevent waste runoff and all structures must be registered with the city’s zoning office.

The ordinance, which received unanimous support, is expected to go into effect after its second reading when the council next meets later this month.

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