Watch the full listening post on the Excelsior Citizen YouTube Channel
August 27, 2023 – On a quiet Sunday afternoon, the council chambers of Excelsior Springs filled with approximately 30 residents, city officials, and concerned citizens. The topic at hand was whether to allow chickens within the city limits. Melinda Mehaffey, the City Economic Developer, opened the meeting, setting the stage for a discussion that would touch on various aspects of urban chicken ownership.
Diverse Panel Weighs In
The panel assembled for this listening post was a mix of community members and experts. It included three concerned citizens—Valley Coleman, Vivian Gritton, and Trevor Gritton—as well as Dr. Pete Rucker, a retired veterinarian from Excelsior Springs Animal Clinic, and Melissa Davis, the Animal Control Officer.
On Sunday, the council chambers of Excelsior Springs became a hub for community dialogue as residents and city officials gathered to discuss the possibility of allowing chickens within the city limits. Melinda Mehaffey, the City Economic Developer, initiated the meeting, which was aimed at dissecting the various facets of urban chicken ownership.
Balanced Discussion on Pros and Cons
After Mehaffy’s introduction, Trevor Gritton took the lead in presenting the potential pros and cons of allowing chickens within the city. His comprehensive list aimed to provide a balanced view of the issue.
Cons of Allowing Chickens
Noise Concerns: Gritton pointed out that chickens can be noisy, especially during laying or if they sense danger. Roosters, in particular, can be loud.
Odor Issues: Chicken droppings and the type of feed used can contribute to strong odors if not managed properly.
Animal Welfare: There is a potential for animal suffering due to negligent owners who may provide inadequate shelter, food, or medical care.
Human Health Risks: Chickens can carry bacteria like Salmonella, although Dr. Rucker later clarified that the risk is generally low.
Waste Management: The proper disposal of chicken waste was highlighted as a concern.
Vermin and Predators: The presence of chickens could attract rodents and other predators.
Municipal Risks: Legal issues and zoning laws could pose challenges for the local government.
Pros of Allowing Chickens
Fresh Eggs: Gritton mentioned the nutritional benefits of fresh eggs from backyard chickens.
Natural Pest Control: Chickens can help control pests and weeds in yards.
Waste Reduction: Chicken manure can be composted, and chickens can consume food scraps.
Educational Value: Raising chickens can be educational for children and teach responsibility.
Emotional Well-being: Chickens can offer stress reduction and emotional benefits.
Sustainability: Local egg production could reduce transportation needs and ensure ethical treatment of chickens.
Additional Insights and Suggested Bylaws
As the discussion evolved, additional insights were shared, particularly focusing on suggested bylaws that could govern chicken ownership in the city. Gritton then presented a list of bylaw suggestions, which are as follows:
No Roosters: To mitigate noise issues.
Normal Maintenance of Bedding: To control odors and ensure cleanliness.
Space Requirements: 10 sqft per hen in the run and 3 sqft in the coop.
Hen Limit: A cap on the maximum number of hens one can own.
Poultry Netting: To be buried 18 inches deep for predator control.
Coop Ventilation: The top of the coop should be vented but not drafty to reduce odor.
Permit Requirement: A purchasable permit that could potentially cover the wages of personnel conducting inspections.
Inspections: To be conducted upon completion of construction or annually.
Complaint Handling: Animal control to investigate after the 2nd complaint of a bylaw violation.
Distance Regulations: Coop/run to be a certain distance from the nearest dwelling unit or property line.
Egg Cleaning Procedure: Required for the sale of eggs.
Bedding Disposal: Options for composting or contracts with local landscaping companies for removal.
Dr. Rucker spoke about the low risk of diseases from chickens affecting the community but cautioned that individual owners should be aware of potential risks. Melissa Davis shared that her colleague in Liberty, where chickens have been allowed for eight years, reported minimal issues related to chicken ownership. Most problems, she said, were actually incidents where dogs were attacking the chickens.
Several community members voiced their support for allowing community chickens. Although there were some questions about potential conflicts no one at the meeting spoke against allowing fowl.
The meeting concluded with the announcement that planning and zoning will hold public hearings at a later date, providing another opportunity for public input. If all goes as planned, ordinances regarding chicken ownership within the city could be presented to the city council in October or November.
For a community pondering the complexities of urban chicken ownership, the listening post served as an important forum for sharing information and opinions, leaving residents to await the next steps in the decision-making process.
Citizens with questions, concerns, or additional comments can contact the Excelsior Springs Community Development Department at 816-630-0756