Shelton zoning change could make it easier to raise chickens

The Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z) is looking for public feedback on a possible update to regulations concerning the minimum size lot required to have chickens.

The P&Z has been looking at the issue since earlier this year, when a complaint was received about a Walnut Avenue resident raising chickens on a two-acre lot.

The resident initially went to the Zoning Board of Appeals to seek a variance so he could keep the chickens, but that application was withdrawn under the assumption that the P&Z would re-look at the regulations.

The raising of backyard chickens has become more popular and commonplace in recent years, allowing residents to have a ready source of eggs.

Current regulations require at least five acres of property, because the parcel then is considered a farm in Shelton and the owners may raise many kinds of unlimited poultry and livestock.

“Some residents think that’s excessive,” Rick Schultz, P&Z administrator, said of the five-acre minimum.

Looking at various options

The P&Z’s Zoning Subcommittee has been looking at various possibilities and seems to have settled on allowing up to five chickens on lots of at least one builder’s acre (40,000 square feet), up to 10 chickens on lots of at least two builder’s acres (80,000 square feet), and unlimited chickens on lots of five builder’s acres (200,000 square feet) or more.

Roosters would be banned on all lots of less than 200,000 square feet, as they are now. Roosters are usually the culprits when it comes to excessive noise, with their crowing at daybreak.

The P&Z is expected to hold a public hearing on its proposed change in the near future. It will not vote on the change until after the hearing.

Bothering the neighbors?

P&Z member Virginia Harger expressed concerns about liberalizing the rules for keeping chickens.

She said the number of lots that would be eligible to keep chickens would increase greatly, and this could cause problems for neighbors in some cases. She said some people might object to having a neighbor’s chickens so close to their houses.

But P&Z Chairman Ruth Parkins said many people with one- or two-acre lots might like to be able to raise chickens. “I don’t see how it’s different than having rabbits,” she said.

Government shouldn’t over-regulate everything, said Parkins, adding the P&Z should try to gauge public reaction to changing the minimum-lot-size requirements.

P&Z member Nancy Dickal agreed with Parkins. “We just can’t dictate everything,” she said, adding she doesn’t think a lot of people will actually get chickens if the rules change.

Chicken coops and egg sales

The zoning regulations would require that the chickens be kept in a coop or enclosure at all times, and be at least 50 feet from a property line. The enclosure could not be in a front yard.

“No chickens shall be allowed to free roam,” states the proposal.

The regulations also cover appropriate screening and drainage. In addition, the new rules would prohibit the commercial sale of eggs on lots of less than five acres.

Originally when zoning began in Shelton in 1952, property owners could have up to 20 chickens or similar poultry on lots less than two acres. Anyone with more than two acres could have unlimited poultry and livestock.

“This regulation was consistent with an agricultural-based community at the time,” according to a background report prepared by P&Z staff.