WVC is considering allowing yard hens
By pamela manson
The Salt Lake TribuneFirst published Mar 23 2014 01:01AM
West Valley City • Residents here could start hearing the clucking of hens in their neighborhoods if a proposed ordinance classifying female chickens as pets is approved.
The West Valley City Council is considering permitting backyard hens in residential areas, a proposal that divides neighbors between those who love fresh eggs and the feeling of rural living and those who hate the noise and smells from the suburban chickens. Currently, chickens are allowed only in agricultural areas in Utah’s second-largest city.
A public hearing on the ordinance — which would define female chickens as "household pets" and allow a household to have up to four of them — will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall, 3600 S. Constitution Blvd. (2700 West).
The Planning Commission voted 5-2 last month against the proposal, and city staffers also are recommending the council continue to ban the fowl from residential neighborhoods. Their objections center on the noise and smells generated by chickens and the fact that rodents are attracted by their feed.
In addition, West Valley animal control officers already receive about 15 to 20 calls a week complaining about clucking and odor or alleging that a resident is running an egg-selling business in a non-commercial zone, according to a city report.
Layne Morris, director of West Valley’s Community Preservation Department, said chickens "are literally everywhere" in the city. He said they are difficult to keep in a residential area.
It is possible to have a few chickens without being a nuisance to neighbors, Morris said, but added, "That seldom happens."
Proponents of suburban chickens, though, say dogs and other pets can cause just as many problems and that noise is not a concern because roosters would not be allowed under the proposal.
A West Valley resident who has kept chickens in her backyard said hens make very little noise and do not smell bad if their pens are kept clean. Other animals can be more of a nuisance, she said.
"Cats are roaming the neighborhood and dogs bark all the time," said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity. She said backyard chickens produce eggs that are healthier than store-bought eggs and manure that helps a garden grow. In addition, chickens are good pets for kids, she said.
"If your chickens are not bothering your neighbors," she said, "your neighbors won’t care."