Hen proposal raises a cluck

Animal Ordinance Committee hears arguments on backyard hens

Minot supporters of backyard hens made their case for the banned foul before a city committee Wednesday.

The Animal Ordinance Committee took the information under advisement after arguments were made for and against changing Minot’s ordinance to allow chickens in city limits. The committee meets again Nov. 2 at 3:30 p.m. in City Hall

Jayme Vettel presented information regarding the usefulness of chickens in producing eggs and recycling food waste through their diets. The birds are quiet and odorless if properly cared for, and waste can be used as compost or hauled to the landfill for compost, she said. Coops are specially designed for attractiveness and to protect the birds.

Committee member Randy McDonald asked what might happen to hens after about three years when they quit laying. Lifespan can be up to 15 years.

“Soup,” responded Vettel. She said people can continue to keep hens as pets, use the meat or rehome the chickens.

Committee member Sara Bloom, an advocate for backyard hens, said Fargo has allowed hens since April with no complaints. A number of large cities also allow backyard hens. Sioux Falls, S.D., a city of about 154,000 people, gets fewer than 10 calls a year with chicken complaints, she said.

“People think that it’s a huge deal to allow hens into your city, but I think, really, it’s just a fear and a concern, but it’s not legitimate,” she said.

Committee member Rob White with the Minot Police Department acknowledged complaints are few in cities allowing hens, but hen numbers tend to be small in those cities.

“The issue is, if you are the one complaining, it’s a big deal to you, so in my mind, we also need to protect the neighbors,” White said.

Committee member Richard Sabol raised concerns about feral cats, weasels, hawks or fox being attracted by the hens. He also noted his experience with noisy chickens and questioned whether chickens would devalue neighbors’ properties.

“If you want a chicken, why don’t you live out in the country?” he said.

Jeff Hoverson and his daughter, Lydia, who raise chickens outside city limits, spoke of the positive experiences they have had.

“There’s a lot more benefits than just eggs,” Lydia Hoverson said. She said she enjoys caring for the birds, which take care of food waste and yard bugs, and has not had a problem with predators, although the family also has dogs.

Jack Gelting of Minot spoke of his family’s experience raising chickens for 15 years in South Carolina and California.

“I really feel like my children gained a better appreciation for their role as stewards of God’s creation than they would just having cats and dogs. They are great pets. They are quiet,” he said.