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Town Council to Discuss Allowing Residents to Keep Chickens Tuesday

Just last month, the Council voted against allowing residents to keep miniature goats as pets.

The Herndon Town Council will consider allowing residents to keep up to four chickens in their backyards. (File Photo)
The Herndon Town Council will consider allowing residents to keep up to four chickens in their backyards. (File Photo)
After voting out a zoning ordinance text amendment (ZOTA) that would allow town residents to keep miniature goats as pets in their backyards last month, the Town Council will now move on to considering the idea of allowing residents to keep up to four chickens.

At its meeting on Tuesday night, Mayor Lisa Merkel and the Town Council will discuss a proposed ZOTA and choose to either defer it to a later date, or pass it to the Planning Commission. The Planning Commission is the first to review ZOTAs such as these and will then vote and make recommendations to the Town Council, which has final approval.

The proposed amendment would indicate:

  • Residents on lots of 10,000 square feet or more would be allowed to keep up to four female chickens or waterfowl (such as a pet duck).
  • Selling of any dairy products such as eggs would be prohibited onsite, but allowed off-site.
  • Any enclosed or accessory structure (such as a coop or cage) cannot be located closer than 10 feet from any property line.
  • The animals can only be kept in the rear yard of the home, which must have a fence to keep the fowl in. The fence must meet standards and be at least six feet high. No structures such as coops or cages that are taller than 3 feet can be located closer than 5 feet from the fence.
  • Any waste from the animals must be handled properly "so as not to create odor, attract vermin or create a nuisance to residents or occupants of surrounding properties."

As a zoning ordinance, the right to keep the animals would be subject to the resident obtaining a permit, and inspections can be conducted to ensure compliance.

Also At Tuesday's Council Meeting

A public hearing will be held on the idea of allowing Jimmy's Old Town Tavern in downtown to add outdoor seating.

Also, the Mayor and Town Council members will be recognizing a number of people for their recent contributions and accomplishments to the Town.

The Pride of Herndon marching band of Herndon High School will be recognized for their recent success traveling to Hawaii to perform in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade. In addition, JT Sidhu of United Airlines will be presented with a certificate of appreciation for his help to the band with their travels.

The winners of the Dress Up Herndon for the Holidays contest will be presented with their certificates.

John Mosesso will be honored for his contributions to the Herndon Homecoming Parade this past October.


TELL US - What are your thoughts on the idea of allowing Town residents to keep up to four chickens or waterfowl in their backyards? Share in the comments below.


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Lorna Schmid January 14, 2014 at 07:55 AM
Let's ask the Town Council to pass this on the the Planning Commission so they can research this growing trend and produce a report on the pros and cons for our town. Also, see: January 12, 2014 WorldWatch Institute article, “U.S. City Dwellers Flock to Raising Chickens." ~ http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5900
Carlin Anderson January 14, 2014 at 09:02 AM
I agree. There has been enough community interest that this deserves further research and serious consideration by the Town.
Mrs Barb Keeler January 14, 2014 at 09:47 AM
I would support the measure. Three hens would be my choice if someone would share an order with me.
Mike January 14, 2014 at 10:04 AM
bok bok bok bok
Lorna Schmid January 14, 2014 at 10:04 AM
Hi Barb ~ Have you written a letter to the Town Council expressing your support? If yes, awesome if not, it could be very helpful as every letter counts.
Joyce Burd January 14, 2014 at 11:58 AM
I may be in the minority, but I am opposed to this measure. In our yards, I think it would be noisy and smelly.
John Waggoner January 14, 2014 at 01:01 PM
Chickens are lovely pets. They're affectionate, they eat bugs -- including ticks -- and they give eggs. What more could a pet owner want? It was our chicken, Gertie, who convinced the Council to allow one chicken per resident. She was a great pet, and I would support allowing up to four chickens per quarter-acre yard.
Tiffany Diehl January 14, 2014 at 04:09 PM
The pros and cons for goats were fairly similar. If that wouldn't pass, why do chickens have a shot?
Lorna Schmid January 14, 2014 at 10:13 PM
The Town Council voted 5-1 in favor of moving the Zoning Ordinance to the Planning Commission! Great work to all the letter writers and speakers and supporters! This is really good news!
Lorna Schmid January 14, 2014 at 11:01 PM
oops. 6-1
anne January 15, 2014 at 09:22 AM
aside from the noise and dirt and odors in a suburban neighborhood has anyone looked into diseases? there's histoplasmosis caused by virus in soil from chickens. (does bad things to the retina). easier to cut back on egg con- sumption.
Elsa February 16, 2014 at 11:42 PM
Yes, chickens are wonderful & that's precisely why they shouldn't be exploited by trendy ignorant residential types. What will become of all the roosters?? They're loud, don't produce eggs, & could be funneled into the cruel subculture of cock fighting. How about back yard slaughter? Do people want to hear a bungled attempt by their neighbor to kill a terrified bird? Not everyone has the skills to create/maintain a proper safe, easy-to-clean habitat & enclosure that is secure from predators. How about when pet birds are stolen to be someone's meal? If a bird is sick or injured will the "owner" bother to take her to the vet for treatment? If she stops producing eggs will she still be valued or considered useless & discarded? How about the many various cultures in our community who do not treat animals well, will we enjoy seeing neglected birds in filthy pens in our neighborhoods? Chickens have very few laws to protect them, thanks to agribusiness. This scenario is not well-thought out & chickens should not be subjected to the mistakes of even well-meaning amateurs. Chickens do not belong in suburban neighborhoods to be exploited for their eggs & flesh. (And to those who will no doubt accuse me of hypocrisy for eating factory killed birds, I have been veg for over 30 years, haven't touched meat or eggs).
Lorna Schmid February 17, 2014 at 04:05 PM
Elsa, I appreciate your comments, but the same questions could be asked of dog, cat, or bird owners. The value we place on our animals is personal and there are laws that would protect residential animals that, as you state, are not in place in the agribusiness from which most Americans purchase their eggs and meat. I highly recommend reading the report by the Environmental Law Institute (2012) ~ Illegal Fowl: A Survey of Municipal Laws Relating to Backyard Poultry and a Model Ordinance for Regulating City Chickens http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2119494 Mostly quoted: This report provides a survey of municipal ordinances in the top 100 most populous cities in the United States regarding the keeping and raising chickens. The report offers lessons that may be applied to designing a model ordinance. This survey reveals that chickens are, perhaps surprisingly, legal in the vast majority of large cities (83%). The survey also identifies regulatory norms and some effective and less effective ways to regulate the keeping of chickens. A proposed model ordinance, based on the background information and survey results, could be adopted by a city or easily modified to fit a city’s unique needs.“ “Part I will discuss the benefits of backyard chickens. Part II will investigate concerns that many people have with keeping chickens in the city. Part III will provide some background about chickens and chicken behavior that municipalities should understand before crafting any ordinance. Part IV will survey ordinances related to keeping chickens in the 100 most populous cities in the United States, identifying regulatory norms and particularly effective and ineffective means of regulation. Finally, Part V will put forward a model ordinance that regulates keeping chickens in an urban setting while providing sufficient regulation to abate nuisance concerns.
Lorna Schmid February 17, 2014 at 04:12 PM
You will note in that report that there are very well crafted requirements that can be put in place and coops are rather easy to come by and provide safe and aesthetically pleasing environments (one can also find plans for building them). Another interesting note is that in 2013 Spotsylvania county ~ in a hotly contested debate ~ approved residential chickens for 4 of 7 voting districts. In Feb 2014 they have preliminarily voted to allow chickens in the remaining 3 districts. Planning Commissioner Mary Lee Carter said, “Spotsylvania has issued eight permits for backyard chickens since the initial ordinance was approved in February 2013. The Zoning Office hasn’t received any complaints about legal chicken owners. “It’s been a solid ordinance thus far,” said county planner Jacob Pastwik. “We haven’t really had any issues with it.”

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