Since You Asked

I know the city of Medford legalized ownership of chickens in 2007, and I think that's wonderful. But how many chickens are allowed within city limits?

— Millie A., Medford

Medford Municipal Judge Bill Haberlach ruled in January 2007 that Medford's ordinance banning livestock in residential areas didn't include a small number of hens for noncommercial use. The decision opened the way for urban chicks.

The city's rather complex zoning ordinance that regulates backyard flocks doesn't set any limits on the numbers of chickens that can be kept, explained Suzi Gish in the city's code enforcement office. However, code enforcement officers can cite owners for violations of noise and sanitation rules if neighbors complain about sounds or smells emanating from the coop. That effectively relegates roosters to the country and necessitates keeping the whole operation squeaky clean.

"Just use common sense and remember you are in the city," Gish advises would-be chicken-keepers trying to decide how many birds they need to keep the family in eggs and the neighbors' complaints at bay.

The issue came up in 2004 when Medford warned Ingrid Edstrom about her six chickens, and she asked for clarification on the code regulating chickens. The city attorney determined that the code as written prohibited the birds.

In May 2005 the city council considered, but rejected, an ordinance that would have allowed residents to keep up to six birds, sticking with the ban thought to be in place.

Jim Bauermeister contested the ordinance when he was cited for keeping chickens in July 2006, and that case led to Haberlach's ruling.

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