Home grown eggs legal in Chesterfield

Up to six chickens are now permitted to be raised in backyards across Chesterfield. But there is a caveat: if your neighborhood association or deed covenants restrict the birds from a subdivision, the amateur farmer is out of luck.

The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors approved backyard coops during last week’s meeting. The Planning Commission had previously approved the ordinance  4 – 1.

According to Planning Director Kirk Turner, in the planning departments report to the Board, “Recent community interest… and applications to allow chicken keeping in Residential Districts prompted the Board of Supervisors to direct staff to consider possible amendments to the ordinance to allow the use in all single family Residential Districts.”

As approved by the Board, chicken keeping would become a use permitted in Residential Districts subject to specific restrictions. If these restrictions are met, no further zoning action would be required of a property owner, according to the planning staff report.

If one or more of these restrictions is not met, conditional use approval would be required.

According to Andrea Epps who represented Ryann Barnum, “These chickens have become pets to Ryann’s little girls and it’s also a matter of a balance of property rights,” Epps said, during a public hearing in July. Somehow chickens were thrown into the same pot as stock farms and she says that a chicken is not stock, like cattle or horses. “Students are given eggs, as a science project, and they put them in incubators; they watch them hatch and then the teacher says, ‘who wants a chicken?’” Epps said. “So what are they going to do with them?”

Although a fee has yet to be mentioned, other rules of the run have been:

•     The use is incidental to a dwelling on the premises
•     A maximum of six (6) chickens are kept
•     Roosters are not kept
•     At all times, chickens are to be kept within a single building having a single attached fenced outside run. The building must have a minimum 10 and a maximum of 20 square feet, the fenced outside run area must have a maximum of 40 square feet and have a minimum area of five (5) square feet per chicken and the fenced outside run area is securely enclosed on the top and sides with wire mesh or similar material

The coop must be located to the rear of the house and be at least 25 feet from any property lines and slaughtering of the chickens must not occur.

While the BOS bantered about the revised ordinance one supervisor wondered how the brood would be maintained as chickens died off.

Dorothy Jaeckle, Bermuda District Supervisor, said tongue-in-cheek, “and there will be no conjugal visits.”

If problems arise from noise or smell, the ordinance is considered complaint based, so if there is a complaint, an animal control officer will visit and possibly issue a citation.

The revised county ordinance was approved 3-2.

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