Hatching Out a Compromise: City chicken ordinance has family crying foul

City & family seek compromise in raising urban chickens on certain amount of land

CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – The term “urban chicken” is not a reference to a chicken sandwich at a fast food restaurant. It refers to raising chickens in a city. Chattanooga allows for urban chickens, but the city ordinance has one family crying foul. Now, both sides hope they can hatch out a compromise.

Urban farming isn’t a new idea. It’s usually to grow crops for either family or public consumption. Ashley Fleming and her family are also urban farmers, but they have an issue with the city because of their hens – right before Easter.

Fleming: “The chickens help in the garden because there’s a lot of beetles that come out, and there’s caterpillars that come and eat your stuff and I don’t want to kill them. But if chickens will eat them, then it’s not being wasted!”

McKamey Animal Center recently visited the Flemings regarding their ten hens because they are the family pets on only one acre of land. A city ordinance says urban chickens can only be raised on five acres of land within city limits. Other cities around the country allow urban chickens on less land, so Fleming wants to know if the city can update the rule.

“Why is it even not OK to have chickens? There are things I don’t know. There’s a lot of things I don’t know. So, like, why? What are the bad things that happened that make it not OK, or is this just an old rule and it needs to be updated to match the times?,” asked Fleming.

Dan Reuter, Planning Administrator for the City of Chattanooga, says, “I think if Councilwoman Berz or the City Council would like to revisit this issue, and have us look at some other codes, then happy to do that. Happy to revisit the issue, happy to have some community meetings, and talk about whether chickens are – on smaller than five acres – is appropriate in the city.”

This isn’t a new issue. Just one the city deals with regularly…but the pandemic didn’t allow for City Council to wrestle with it the last couple years. That may be changing soon.

Reuter: “It’s been talked about in the past. My recommendation would be to, again, try to have a community discussion about this. See if there’s any newer ways of handling chickens that could be something that, among the residents in Chattanooga, we could be OK with.”

Fleming plans to attend Tuesday’s City Council meeting to plead her case. Unless she can get an extension or City Council finds a way to amend the ordinance before then, it’s going to be a rough Easter for the Flemings, as they’ll have to give up all ten of their hens by April 14th.

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