Medford chicken owners are crowing after City Council Thursday overturned its previous six-fowl limit — but it continued a ban on roosters.
“It’s amazing they landed back where they started,” said Regina Davis, whose chickens spawned a neighbor complaint that led to the council developing an ordinance to deal with chickens and other fowl.
The council, on a 7-1 vote, revoked the earlier ordinance after it raised the hackles of local residents, many of whom said they depended on the eggs from homegrown chickens and described how important it was to their children, including some in 4-H.
“It affected a lot more people than they realized,” Davis said.
Councilor Kim Wallan said, “I don’t want to criminalize chickens, particularly after listening to all the chicken owners.”
The council didn’t place a limit on the number of chickens, but said the birds must be kept in backyards and chicken coops must be set back at least 4 feet from property lines.
Roosters are banned from the city, as are other large and noisy fowl such as peacocks and emus.
The council spent some time debating a proposal to have a 20-chicken limit but decided that local families need to have more control over how many they keep. Encouraging local farming and 4-H participation were other considerations.
Last October, the council took the unusual step of not enforcing its six-chicken ordinance after it received complaints from local residents. Since then, the council has signaled that it planned to remove or change the ordinance.
“I don’t think chickens are dangerous,” Councilor Dick Gordon said.
He said he thinks code enforcement officers do a good job handling issues with odor and noise in the city. Gordon led the charge to do away with most of the restrictions on chickens in backyards. He thought the ordinance was just a reaction to one neighbor being upset with another neighbor.
“I don’t think we should pass any of this,” he said.
Councilor Tim D’Alessandro said he was surprised at how popular chickens are for many Medford families.
“I’ve discovered I have chickens all over my neighborhood,” he said.
Chicken lovers cheered the council’s decision.
Medford resident Heidi Smith told the councilors that she wanted the six-chicken limit reversed.
“You can have unlimited chickens, just not in your front yard,” she said.
Smith said the council gave local chicken owners “maximum liberty” to figure out how many chickens are appropriate for their backyards. She applauded the council for going through a proposed ordinance, throwing out what they didn’t like and keeping only a basic set of rules in place.
“They were really courageous,” Smith said. “They really did a fantastic job.”
Mayor Gary Wheeler, after spending close to two hours discussing the city’s fowl ordinance, said, “That concludes the epic chicken episode.”
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.