The city’s Board of Aldermen agreed at its Aug. 19 meeting to amend its municipal code to delete a provision that prohibits chickens and certain animals like pigeons, doves, duck and geese on parcels of land smaller than 3 acres.
The 5-1 vote resolves a conflict in the city code that occurred from zoning regulations allowing chickens and other animals as a permitted use in the city’s R-1A residential zoning district for homes 1 acre or larger. Having chickens is not an identified use in residential lots less than 1 acre. Alderman Dan Koch (Ward 3) cast the lone no vote.
Rather than change the zoning regulations, the board opted to delete the 3-acre requirement and address the issue only if the city receives more complaints.
Alderman John Gotway (Ward 3), who researched the issue and checked the city of Creve Coeur’s chicken control ordinance, didn’t favor tinkering with the zoning ordinance for now.
“We can work this out reasonably, more intelligently, give it more time as problems come up, it they come up,” Gotway told the board during a work session before its regular meeting.
“I would agree with John in thinking that going forward we would be putting the chicken before the egg,” said Alderman Blake Nay (Ward 2), which drew a gentle laugh from the board and audience. “I couldn’t help it.”
Mayor Dave Zucker said it was just the beginning for the puns.
“They are going to be rolling down the chute all night,” he said.
Puns, however, were limited. While acknowledging that chickens may not be the top priority for the city now, Zucker said the issue raised strong opinions among residents “that are underpinned by philosophical differences” about the role of government.
For all the years chickens were unregulated and the city has not had problems with noise or odor and with them running loose, Zucker said. Stricter regulations may require inspections and regulations that the city would have to fund, he said.
“That’s an argument for not creating an enforcement mechanism that puts the healthy hand of government on the necks of citizens without a compelling reason,” Zucker said.
Once there are problems that are not hypothetical, then the city could adopt appropriate regulations, he added. If someone gets guinea hens, known to be noisy, “we’ll be back here with an ordinance.”
The issue of backyard chickens was raised only recently when a dispute between neighbors ruffled some feathers. A neighbor reported that the other neighbor to a city code enforcement officers.
A month ago no one inn Dardenne Prairie much thought to chickens, Zucker said during the work session. “To be sure chickens existed but they minded their own business, they went about their laying of eggs and whatever, and no one took notice of chickens, peace was upon the land,” Zucker said.
But healso noted that a number of subdivision homeowners associations have restrictions over animals that bind residents more than city regulations.
Arnold and Carolyn Deevers have a small coop and runway area that houses a brood of 15 to 20 chickens on their home on a 1-acre lot.The Deevers said the chickens aren’t noisy and only cluck when laying eggs or they see a predator like a fox.
“They definitely are not as noisy as the dogs in the neighborhood,” Carolyn said.
Arnold said the chickens produce eggs for home use and are not sold commercially. The manure smell is kept down with lime and the waste is used on plants. Their coop isn’t visible from the road, they said.
Carolyn said of the 20 chickens they have, nine are still growing have not begun laying eggs. New chickens have to be added each year because some egg-laying chickens don’t lay eggs for very long.
Their chickens and their eggs also face threats from hungry raccoons, hawks, opossums and king snakes.
Koch, who cast the lone negative vote, lauded the Deevers for their coop.
“I’ve never seen chickens so well treated in my life,” Koch said. He added that he couldn’t imagine the Deevers’ chickens being a nuisance to neighbors.
But he also said his constituents told him they wanted some regulations and the board should step up and do its job. He said he favored less restrictive regulations and grandfathering residents with chickens. For now, though, he was content with the board’s decision.
“Let’s move on, we’ve got more important issues as a city at this present time than researching every subdivision in city of St. Louis or surrounding area to see what their chicken ordinances are,” Koch said. “Let’s not make this harder than it is.”