Backyard Chicken Rules Lay An Egg

Payson Planning Commission wants would-be hen keepers to go through public hearings

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Cluck, cluck, cluck — that’s OK — maybe.

But definitely no cock-a-doodle-dos, thank you.

The Payson Planning Commission this week referred a debate about whether the town should allow backyard poultry — but then, well, kind of chickened out.

The planning commission did a hasty egg toss in the direction of the town council, recommending that Payson allow hens, but not roosters — after some sort of not-yet-determined public hearing process.

The muffled support for the right to bear chickens represented a near setback for the band of residents who petitioned the town for the right to keep chickens in the back yard — in these hard times.

“In consideration of the difficult economic times we live in and in the spirit of the magnificent U.S. Constitution, it is incomprehensible that we boast of our freedoms and cannot even have chickens for fresh eggs,” according to a statement signed by a dozen Payson residents.

Backyard urban chickens have become quite the rage, since the fussy cluckers readily turn kitchen scraps into eggs — paragons of self-sufficiency. Even Phoenix now allows backyard chickens — although when it hits 115 degrees, you’d think you’d have to call in the SPCA.

Currently, Payson residents can keep livestock — including chickens — on lots bigger than one acre in size if they meet a variety of conditions designed to avoid irritating the neighbors.

The town’s planning staff recommended the town allow up to 10 backyard chickens in a coop at least six feet from the house and 25 feet from the setback along the property line providing they don’t become a nuisance on account of odd noises and barnyard smells. No roosters, though — on account of the do-a-doodling at dawn.

However, half a dozen residents showed up to henpeck the whole idea.

Basically they didn’t want no cluckers as neighbors. They stink. They make noise. They attract rats, bugs and flies. Oh, yeah — next thing you know we’ll have street gangs of raccoons, cruising the neighborhood, looking to crash the coop.

So the supporters and opponents played chicken — until the planning commission blinked. On a 7-0 vote, the planning commission forwarded a careful recommendation to the town council. The commission suggested that any homeowner who wants to exercise his constitutional rights to poultry should first get a permit of some sort from the town, which would require sending a notice to the neighbors followed by a public hearing.

However, the commission opted not to approve the specific list of restrictions, pending a decision from the council on the whole public hearing thing.

In the meantime, this might be a free country — but chickens, well, that’s a whole other deal.

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