No chickens in Perry; fighting city hall

Story and photo by Carolyn Kaberline

Beth Roe can remember visiting her grandparents on Bridge Street in Perry when she was growing up. And while she can remember them having goats, ducks, chickens and even pigs in the backyard, she and her husband, Justin, the current owners of the house, have found out that having even chickens in the backyard is no longer possible.

Hannah Roe, 6, looks into the chicken coop in the family backyard in hopes of finding chickens there once again.

Hannah Roe, 6, looks into the chicken coop in the family backyard in hopes of finding chickens there once again.

“We’ve been petitioning the Perry City Council for several months now to change their current ordinance that prohibits chickens within the city limits,” Beth said, noting that she and Justin knew nothing about the law when they first obtained chickens almost a year ago.

“Once we found out that they were not allowed, we started attending the monthly city council meetings in hope of changing the ordinance,” Beth said. “At the January city council meeting we were told that they would be willing to rewrite the ordinance based on a proposed ordinance that we wrote up for them.”

Beth explained that they had temporarily removed the chickens from their property, but were only able to keep them at their new location for a few weeks before bringing them back.

“I did not contact the city council to let them know that they were back on our property,” Beth said. “I was planning on attending the March meeting to see how the ordinance change was going and to let them know of the chickens being back on our property, but my husband and I ended up being in Africa for two weeks and weren’t able to make it back to that meeting.”

However, upon the Roes’ return from the mission trip, they found that the council wasn’t going to pursue a change in the ordinance because of the chickens still being on their property.

That’s when Beth began researching how zoning boards from other towns handled similar situations.

“It seems I now know way more about chickens than I ever wanted to,” Beth said.

She soon found that while few small towns allowed chickens, most larger towns, including Los Angeles and New York, allowed poultry.

“Lawrence put a law on the books on April 2, 2009, that says a homeowner can have up to 20 chickens, but with no roosters,” Beth said as she recounted Kansas laws. “In Topeka, unlimited chickens are allowed, but they must be penned 50 feet from any neighbor’s house. Wichita will allow up to five chickens—no roosters or guineas—without any fees, but they can have more with a permit. Salina allows a maximum of 15 chickens but says the chicken house must be at least 50 feet from anyone else’s house. Hutchinson just changed their ordinance on how many you can keep based on the size of land, which is what we wrote up in our proposed ordinance, as well as no roosters. Our proposed ordinance also stated no roosters over two months of age or crowing age.”

While Beth said they did let the council know that they had removed the chickens from the property in January, they did not let them know that they were brought back because she thought someone else could be found to take them.

“When I couldn’t, I was going to the council and let them know that they were back, but missed the meeting because of us being in Africa,” Beth explained. “There were reasons for not calling the council. Mainly when we first started the process, before our very first city council meting, we went directly to a council member that we knew and told him we had chickens and asked him what we should do. He gave us advice that the city lawyer said he should not have given, so we thought it best to go to the council as a whole. We have done that before by letter, but to be honest, when we found out that we were going to Africa that took priority over everything else as it took a lot of time and preparation to go. I am guilty of not getting with the council sooner, and I regret that.”

Beth also noted that their only complaint about the chickens to date has come from a neighbor a few doors away.

“The chickens aren’t bothering him, but what does bother him is that we have them against the ordinance,” she explained. “When we built the coop, we were thinking of our neighbors and put them as far away from the property lines as we could. We even put the run on the opposite side of the coop so even when the chickens were out, they could not be seen from our neighbors’ properties. We cleaned the coop every Thursday, even though most people suggested cleaning it only once a month and again, no roosters, so there was virtually no noise.”

Right now, the Roes are in the process of getting support for their proposed ordinance to allow chickens in Perry through obtaining signatures on a petition.

“A petition only shows what people want it [the proposed ordinance] passed,” Andy Meyer, Perry city council member, explained. “It doesn’t show those who are against it. Right now our city ordinance doesn’t allow certain domesticated animals and chickens are one of them.”

Meyer noted that although a change in the ordinance has been brought up in the past several meetings, there has been no real interest in changing it to allow chickens.

“So far two parties have asked me to be in favor of chickens in Perry,” Meyer said, adding that ten other parties [households] have voiced opposition to the change.

And as to why other towns in Kansas and even large cities allow chickens, Meyer noted that two different populations are involved.

“Larger towns have full-time staff members dedicated to making sure things follow through,” Meyer said, “but the Perry police are only part time and wear multiple hats. The town has only three full-time employees.”

Meyer also explained that it’s hard to dictate whether someone can or can’t have chickens because of the size of their lot.

“The important thing is whether the majority of the citizens are in favor of a change,” Meyer added.

The Roes hope to gain more signatures in favor of changing the current ordinance before the council’s July 6 meeting so that chickens will once again be able to live in the coop in their backyard.

“The chickens have been very entertaining for my four kids who have learned how to raise and take care of chickens, as well as learned about having good ‘farm-raised’ food,” Beth said.

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Posted by on Jul 18 2011. Filed under Featured, Government, Municipalities, Perry, The Vindicator. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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