Shelton P&Z seeks input on changing chicken regulations

How many chickens should people in Shelton be able to keep in their yards? That question will be the subject of a public hearing at a Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 28, that begins at 7 p.m.

The city’s zoning regulations now prohibit anyone from having chickens on less than five acres, but the P&Z may alter that so people with smaller lots also may have chickens.

The proposed new regulations would allow people to keep up to five chickens on lots from one to two acres, and up to 10 chickens on lots from two to five acres. Roosters would be prohibited on all properties smaller than five acres.

No chickens would be allowed on lots of one acre or less.

People with five acres or more could continue to have an unlimited number of chickens and roosters because a property that large can be classified as a farm.

P&Z members are looking for input from residents on the proposed new chicken regulations, and whether people might consider them to be too open-ended or too strict.

“The commission is urging people to come out and share their views,” said Rick Schultz, city P&Z administrator.

Revised in 1990s

The local zoning rules on chickens were tightened in the late 1990s. “As the town became more suburbanized, we began getting complaints,” Schultz said.

Before that revision, up to 20 chickens were allowed on any size lot of up to five acres.

The proposed new changes were prompted by an application last year for a zoning variance by a Walnut Avenue property owner who was keeping chickens, including a rooster, on a 2.1-acre lot in violation of the rules.

Someone filed a complained about the property owner, who then went to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) to seek a variance.

Instead of taking any formal action, the ZBA suggested the P&Z look at the current regulations to determine if it might be time to change them.

Addressing concerns

Raising backyard chickens has been growing in popularity in recent years. This allows people to have their own source of fresh eggs.

But there also can be issues associated with raising chickens, and the proposed new regulations are designed to deal with some of those potential problems.

The main issues primarily are roosters making noise, free-roaming chickens, commercial egg sales, and possibly attracting rodents. “Roosters usually are the problem,” Schultz said.

On lots smaller than five acres, the new regulations would ban roosters, prohibit chickens from “free” roaming and require that they “be kept within appropriate enclosures or coops at all times.” The proposed rule states that “the selling of eggs and/or chickens to the general public is prohibited.”

As for health-related concerns, the proposal states, “All enclosures shall be maintained using best animal management practices to insure that chickens are kept in a sanitary condition so as to not be a public health hazard as determined by the Lower Naugatuck Valley Health District and/or the state Health Department.”

Enclosures and coops also would have to “be located on moderately well drained and/or well drained soils.”

Required setback from neighbors

In addition, the proposed new regulations would require that chicken enclosures be at least 50 feet from a property line, not be placed in a front yard, and be “appropriately screened from [the] view” of neighbors and the street.

For lots of five acres or more, the current rules would not change. These larger properties now may have an unlimited number of chickens, roosters and certain other poultry and livestock, and also may sell items grown or raised on the land.

Acreage figures

The acreage figures used in this article have been generalized, and reflect what is commonly called a “builder’s acre.” The actual lot sizes involved are slightly smaller.

For legal purposes, the zoning lots sizes involved are 40,000 square feet (“one acre,” actually 0.92 acres), 80,000 square feet (“two acres,” actually 1.84 acres), and 200,000 square feet (“five acres,” actually 4.6 acres).