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City Unanimously Approves Urban Chickens 4-0

More than 40 people signed up to speak on the issue.

After nearly three hours of public input, questioning and presentations, urban chickens became a reality for Sarasota when the city commissioners passed the ordinance 4-0. 

The ordinance will allow up to four hens, no roosters, per single family housing unit. To own the chickens, a person must take a class, build a coop and must make sure the chickens are in a secure area. After three years, the ordinance will come back to the commissioners for a report on the backyard fowl. 

For more than a year, a group called Citizens Lobbying for Urban Chicken-Keeping, or CLUCK, have met with various neighborhoods and residents asking for support of raising hens within city limits.

"We feel we’ve come forward in the spirit of cooperation," said CLUCK member Jono Miller.  

On Tuesday, more than 75 percent of those who spoke at the meeting were in favor of the measure and many whom spoke, Mayor Kelly Kirschner noted, were younger. 

"We are needing to attract the [younger] working class," Kirschner said. "I think the last time we had such a loud outcry from younger generations was for affordable housing." 

Many current and former New College students spoke about the importance of sustainability in Sarasota and the need to keep Sarasota attractive to younger demographics. 

Commissioner Fredd Atkins said he came into the meeting not certain if he would vote for the birds, but by the end of the night he had been persuaded.

"I’m tired and I need to recharge my battery," Atkins said. "But in all seriousness, I do believe that CLUCK should be applauded for the process they have gone through. I just believe this process has worked," he added.

"I don’t believe that everyone is going to go out and get four chickens. I don’t think there are that many yards [that meet code standards] and being able to afford all of these. I’m hoping that the policing of this process doesn't become a city code violation process that we have to supervise ... I’m [also] going to support this because I don’t want [chickens] to be an issue in the upcoming election," Atkins joked.  

Ordinance Quick Hits

  • Up to four hens per single family household 
  • Have to be kept secure, out of sight, out of smell, in the back or side yard
  • No slaughtering
  • No roosters
  • Must not be within 25 feet of fence.
  • Coop must house the hens
  • Chicken owners cannot sue or take legal action if a neighboring cat or dog were to kill a hen. 
  • The ordinance will be reviewed in three years for a progress and status report. 
Jono Miller January 19, 2011 at 12:40 PM
Special thanks are due the hundreds of CLUCK supporters who worked for a year and a half to make this happen. It is hard to beat the combination of organizing and compromising. Some clarifications: • A "introduction to backyard chickens" course is not a requirement of the ordinance, but something CLUCK strongly recommends. • The coop cannot be within 25 feet of a neighboring residence • Chicken owners may be able to take legal action if a dog or cat kills one of their chickens, but it cannot be held against the dog or cat. If readers want to assess if they might be good candidates for backyard hens, please visit our blog and take the quiz available in the header. http://sarasotacluck.blogspot.com/p/are-you-ready-for-backyard-chickens.html Chickens will not be legal in the city until the second reading and final adoption.
Catherine Seress January 25, 2011 at 12:38 PM
For 15 years I kept "garden poultry" in my backyard in England. Never more than 5 Cochin or Pekin hens at a time, they were low maintenance, friendly, acted as an alarm and provided me with good eggs. I fed them only cracked corn and vegetable / fruit table scraps and peelings. However, their living areas do need to be kept clean otherwise it could attract vermin as well as predators. Already many people can not and do not look after their dogs, cats or other "pets" responsibly ... that's my only concern with this.
Lora February 04, 2012 at 09:51 PM
With the recent listeria outbreak in commercial eggs, I see this as a very positive step. I had 4 hens in Colorado for years and it was wonderful. The best part is how effective they are at keeping the bug population in check. Mine totally wiped out a HUGE ant pile, with no pesticides!

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