Fowl play


Several U.S. cities including Los Angeles, Dallas and even New York City have zoning in place to allow citizens to keep chickens in their yards. Oklahoma City, however, has so far banned it on properties less than one acre. And don’t even think about getting a rooster.

An initiative to allow hens in backyards failed to pass the Oklahoma City Council in December, but council members Meg Salyer (Ward 6), Ed Shadid (Ward 2) and Pete White (Ward 4) asked city staff to revisit the issue and come up with an acceptable plan to allow chickens on properties less than one acre in all zoning categories.

“They wanted to try to look at an alternative approach,” said Ken Bryan, senior planner at the OKC Planning Department.

The retooled measure passed the Planning Commission in March and was scheduled to be introduced to the city council April 15. A public hearing will be held April 29, and the city council will vote on the measure May 13.

If the measure passes, it will go into effect June 14.

Passage would allow Oklahoma City residents to pay a one-time $25 application fee for a special exception through the Board of Adjustment, as long as they agree to keep no more than six hens; abide by shelter, noise and odor guidelines; and keep no roosters. Chickens also would not be allowed in front yards.

“That’s more about keeping your animals safe,” Bryan said. “Somebody who’s responsibly taking care of chickens doesn’t want them wandering around.”

The idea to allow urban chickens gained momentum with the arrival of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team, Bryan said.

With Oklahoma City touting itself as a “big-league city,” Bryan said urban gardeners mentioned that many other cities with professional sports franchises do allow urban chickens. The Planning Department looked at nearly 40 cities to see which ones allowed urban chickens and the guidelines they each had in place.

“About 70 percent of the cities on that list allow urban chickens,” Bryan said.

Groups including Transition OKC have worked to raise awareness of the urban chicken issue and educate the public.

Christine Patton, co-founder of Transition OKC, said there are many benefits for an urban gardener who is able to keep chickens on his or her property.

“If you’re an urban gardener, a hen is a boost to gardening organically,” she said. “It will give you fertilizer, [and] they will eat the garden pests, lay eggs and eat kitchen scraps.”

She said the only opposition she has heard has to do more with people who don’t understand what will and will not be allowed and do not want to be awakened by a rooster crowing each day.

“There may be some misunderstanding from people who don’t understand the difference between a rooster and a hen,” she said.

Bryan said roosters will not be allowed and are not allowed in any of the cities from which he collected data.

“We didn’t find any place that allows roosters in urban settings,” he said.