Proposed ordinance for backyard chickens doesn't fly in Galt

09/20/2012 12:00 AM

10/23/2012 3:00 PM

Old MacDonald may have a farm, but if it's in Galt, it better not have chickens.

The Galt City Council took no action Tuesday night on a proposed ordinance to allow homeowners to keep egg-laying chickens in their backyards.

The ordinance died from a lack of supporters making a squawk.

Councilman Mark Crews, who hatched the idea in the first place, said he was "disappointed" that the ordinance didn't fly, and more importantly, that residents who had asked him to bring up the subject didn't come through with a public show of support for owning chickens in the city.

"The people who asked for it didn't come out in support," Crews said. "If they are using chickens to support their families, they should speak up and say they want it. Nothing's a given, and so you have to step up to the plate."

Crews said about a half dozen residents approached him personally over the past few months about drafting an ordinance to allow backyard hens.

He also received emails from constituents in favor.

The city drew up an ordinance that would have allowed up to four egg-laying hens on properties in city limits. The statute would have limited the eggs for home consumption, and regulated the size of the coops and proximity to neighboring properties.

The ordinance went before the city planning commission in April, when no residents expressed support for it, but several residents spoke up against it, citing smell and noise worries. The commission unanimously recommended against the city adopting the ordinance, saying the city's lone zoning code enforcement officer would struggle to make inspections.

In August 2011, in a move lauded by environmentalists and advocates of the "slow food" movement, the Sacramento City Council passed an ordinance that allows residents to keep up to three egg-laying hens in their backyards.

On Wednesday, Crews wondered whether supporters in Galt failed to show up for Tuesday's hearing because they already have chickens and don't want to run afoul of existing law.

He also discounted the concerns of other citizens about keeping chickens, pointing out that noisy roosters would not have been allowed.

"I know people were worried about smell and mess, but have they ever had a dog?" said Crews.

The councilman said he thought keeping chickens would have been a good way for families to supplement their meals and for schoolchildren to start projects for such programs as Future Farmers of America.

And while the cost of eggs is relatively affordable now, a proposed federal egg tax could hike the price, he said.

Crews said the concept of allowing chickens in the city is not completely off the table in the future.

"It's still a good idea, but it's not the time for it," he said.

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