West Valley City • The City Council on Tuesday approved an ordinance that defines female chickens as "household pets," a designation that allows hens in residential neighborhoods.
Until now, chickens were permitted only in agricultural areas in Utah’s second-largest city. The ordinance permits each household to have a total of four pets; for example, a resident could have two dogs and two chickens, or one cat and three chickens. Roosters are still banned.
West Valley City Council members, who voted 4-3 to OK the measure, had heard sharply divided public comment on the issue at previous meetings. Supporters of suburban fowl said the chickens provide healthier eggs and the feeling of rural living, while opponents complained about the odor and noise from the animals.
At a March 25 hearing, resident Pete Trebesch urged a no vote because of the smell from chickens. He again objected to the ordinance on Tuesday and said if the measure were passed, council members should require the coops to be built within 2 feet of the owner’s home.
They didn’t. Councilman Lars Nordfelt, who voted in favor of backyard fowl, said hen houses no longer are like "the big smelly coops" many people remember from their youth.
Other council members voting in favor of the ordinance were Steve Buhler, Tom Huynh and Karen Lang.
Mayor Ron Bigelow and council members Corey Rushton and Steve Vincent voted no.
Bigelow said he was in favor of allowing residential chickens but thought the ordinance needed to include ways to deal with situations where hens get into neighbors’ yards or the animals’ waste causes a problem for the surrounding area.
Vincent wanted a separate ordinance to address issues such as requirements for housing chickens.
"I’m not anti-chicken," he said. "I believe we can do a better job for our residents."
The West Valley City Planning Commission voted 5-2 in February against the proposed ordinance and city staff recommended that the ban on backyard chickens continue because of the noise and smells generated by the fowl and the fact that rodents are attracted by their feed.
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