Chickens capture 2 more cities

Janesville and Fond du Lac have recently approved chicken ordinances, although why that should be such a contentious issue, we don't quite know. Interesting that one of the strongest arguments in both places is that banning hens is closed-minded and backward.

We still think the permit fees are way too steep, considering that most cities report no problems with backyard chickens and virtually no enforcement expenses. Maybe that's something Janesville can address in the future. Meanwhile, we did like the editorial from the Janesville Gazette, which we'll post here.

The city council’s divisive decision to allow backyard chickens at single-family homes in Janesville is nothing to get your feathers ruffled about.

Don’t expect coops to pop up on every block in the city. Most of those who oppose the ordinance, which passed Monday on a 4-3 vote, probably didn’t realize that a longtime ordinance allows residents to raise up to 25 chickens in “outlying” areas, though development has left few spots that qualify.

Critics might wonder why the proposal returned after the council rejected it, 5-2, in 2010. It did because times change and so do faces on the council. Voting “yes” this time were Sam Liebert, Kay Deupree, Carol Tidwell and Mark Bobzien. None was serving when the last vote occurred.

More cities are allowing backyard chickens. They include Fort Atkinson, Jefferson and Madison. Janesville “peer” cities of Green Bay, La Crosse, Oshkosh, Racine and Wauwatosa permit chickens. If any Wisconsin city has rescinded its ordinance because of troubles chickens have caused, we haven’t heard of it.

Janesville modeled its ordinance after one Beloit passed two years ago. Most important, the city won’t allow roosters, which can crow and awaken neighbors, and the city reduced the proposal to limit hens to four instead of six. Likewise, Beloit’s limit is four.

Janesville’s initial permit fee will be $50 with an annual renewal of $25. That doesn’t make keeping chickens for fresh eggs very cost effective, but it also means only people serious about raising hens and maintaining their coops and runs will apply. Besides, residents will have to allow city inspectors on their property to check for rule compliance.

The ordinance passed after repeated reviews by the plan commission and Sustainable Janesville Committee. The plan commission made no recommendation, but the sustainability committee unanimously backed it.

“I really think this is a good-image story,” Aaron Aegerter, a member of the sustainability committee, told the council.

Some people fear chickens might carry diseases. That’s a weak argument given that chickens must be kept in modest enclosures, rather than running around inside homes like in some countries.

Chickens eat ticks and other insects that plague lawns. Chickens won’t be any messier and possibly cleaner than that dog your neighbor seldom picks up after. Without roosters, chickens will be quieter than most canines.

If someone’s chickens create a nuisance or are neglected, the city can deal with that offender just like it would someone who mistreats a pet.

Rejecting this proposal would have been close-minded. It would have reconfirmed what many people think about Janesville, that the community is averse to change. It would have given progressive, environmentally conscious people one more reason to live elsewhere.

Raising chickens for food is growing in popularity. Applaud the council for going with this “green” movement.