Council Chickens Out, Town Abandons New Poultry Laws

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The Payson Town Council ran for cover like a hen from the shadow of a chicken hawk last week and abandoned an attempt to loosen the rules on backyard poultry.

Several residents showed up to cry foul concerning the plan to allow hens in most residential neighborhoods.

“The noise is terrible, they’re just cackling all the time,” said Robert Rush, whose neighbor has about eight hens. “For some reason, people think that hens don’t make noise” but his daughter can’t take afternoon naps, he complained.

The council quickly backed away from the proposal as the feathers flew at the second public hearing on the proposed ordinance.

The people who supported the ordinance didn’t show up, but had previously gathered 13 names on a petition asking for the town to allow chickens on smaller residential lots. Currently, the town code requires homeowners to have at least an acre in order to keep chickens and other farm animals.

The petition argued “in consideration of the difficult economic times we live in and in the spirit of the magnificent U.S. Constitution, the prohibition on having live chickens for the production of fresh eggs for personal use should be lifted. It is incomprehensible that we boast of our freedoms and cannot even have chickens for fresh eggs.”

The proposal had initially drawn little reaction the last time it came before the council. The town staff had drawn up a possible ordinance that would have required chicken owners to get a conditional use permit, which would give the town zoning officials control over the placement of the hen house, fencing, noise and health issues.

The staff recommended the change in the town’s chicken ordinance, concluding “many communities have adopted zoning regulations that allow ecologically sustainable practices such as community gardens and the keeping of poultry.”

Town planner Sheila DeSchaaf said Gilbert, Chandler, Phoenix and Prescott allow poultry on lots smaller than one acre.

Ironically enough, Payson relied on ranching and logging for decades and has long celebrated its rural, western heritage. Well, boys, forget all that. The public hearing on the chicken ordinance and the council’s reaction suggested that those Old West days are a long way behind Payson now. The council voted 7-0 to reject the staff recommendation and leave the current ordinance unchanged.

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