Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
For now, definitely the chicken, as the St. Charles County Council voted 6-0 to approve a bill at its June 11 meeting allowing more chickens to be kept on residential properties in the unincorporated area. Councilmember Terry Hollander [District 5] was absent. However, the council turned down a councilmember’s effort to amend the bill to allow eggs to be sold or advertised for sale.
The council gave a first reading to the bill at its May 28 meeting. The bill will increase the number of chickens allowed on residential lots of 10,100 square feet from four to eight. Councilmember Joe Brazil [District 2], who co-sponsored the bill with Councilmember John White [District 7], said the reason for the change is to allow youngsters who are Future Farmers of America [FFA] members to be able to raise more chickens.
Other municipalities allow more chickens, Brazil said at the meeting. “What’s the difference between four and eight?” he asked. Noisy roosters still aren’t allowed.
But the bill required some negotiations with county animal control officials about how the hens could be housed and cared for – a wire enclosure with a minimum of 10 square feet per hen and six feet or less in height and addition requirements for coops and storage of food.
The bill includes language that hens cannot be kept for commercial or resale purposes. “Hens and eggs may not be sold, nor may they be advertised for sale,” the new language states. And hens cannot be slaughtered per regulations.
At the June 11 meeting, Brazil made a motion to cut the word “eggs” from the bill to allow them to be sold. A lot of FFA member like to sell fresh eggs, he said. “If they want to sell eggs, who cares?” he asked. “Am I missing something, is that a big deal?”
County Health Department Director Hope Woodson and Councilmember Joe Cronin [District 1] said he might be. “I thought the purpose of the bill was home consumption for the families raising their own food not necessarily commercially selling food,” Woodson said. She added that similar restrictions were in the earlier ordinance.
Selling eggs would trigger sellers needing to obtain permits and meeting permit requirements, Woodson said.
Brazil noted that eight chickens may produce a lot of eggs and it might be wasteful to throw them out. “You can give them to your neighbor,” Woodson said.
Woodson noted that food permits are required for selling fresh lemonade that doesn’t come from a prepackaged mix.
Cronin said he took a class from the health department years ago and heard that eggs are a “very dangerous food in terms of salmonella.” Eggs have be kept at a proper temperature, he said. “That’s one of the things they [the county] really hammer home,” he said.
White wasn’t persuaded. “It’s overreach,” White said. “If anyone wants to sell some eggs to their neighbor they should be allowed to do it. Buyer beware.”
Other councilmembers were not convinced with Brazil and White casting the only votes in favor of Brazil’s motion that would allow eggs to be sold.