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Committee Agrees To Relax Rules On Chicken Coops

By Aaron Kraut

Friday - 6/21/2013, 1:55pm  ET

Flickr photo by Flutey50

A Montgomery County Council Committee on Friday agreed to a solution concerning one of the most talked about revisions in the county’s new proposed Zoning Code.

The backyard chicken coop (specifically, how close the coops can be built from a neighbor’s property and how many hens are permitted) has been among the most watched issues in the complex and lengthy Zoning Code Rewrite recommended by the Planning Board and under review by the County Council this summer.

Homeowners who want to produce their own eggs say the existing regulation, which requires coops to be built 100 feet from a neighbor’s house and 25 feet from the lot line, means building a coop is practically impossible on a typical Montgomery County home lot.

At the Zoning Code Rewrite public hearing on June 11, many testified they were concerned about diseases or other health problems that might come from chickens in the middle of their neighborhoods.

The Council’s Planning Committee on Friday agreed to recommend a 15-foot distance requirement for coops from a lot line and limit coops to eight chickens. The Planning Board had recommended a 5-foot requirement.

“It seems like there’s a lot of fuss and feathers around this that I’m not really sure is warranted,” Councilmember George Leventhal (D-At large) said. “I don’t think we’re the hot zone. I don’t think we’re the ground zero of the next pandemic.”

Roosters would not be allowed according to the rewritten ordinance offered by the Planning Board. Planning staff who came up with the new rule for chicken coops noted there are no restrictions on chickens now, just the zoning requirements for a coop or structure to hold them.

Staff also looked into the potential for detrimental health effects of chicken coops and determined many of the same risks exist with domesticated dogs and cats.

Flickr photo by Flutey50