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updated: 7/15/2014 5:42 AM

St. Charles to set loose standards for chicken ownership

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St. Charles residents will continue to have free-range ability to raise chickens in the city, according to a new set of rules unveiled Monday night.

There really aren't any problems with chickens in the city now, said Bob Vann, the city's building and code enforcement division manager. But more and more residents are inquiring about the city's standards for raising chickens. There currently are no standards.

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The city does have a list of prohibited animals, but chickens are classified as a bird, and the city places no limits on the number of birds a resident can keep.

That will be the one major change if aldermen agree to the proposed new rules. Only six domestic chickens could be kept on property zoned for single-family residential use.

The chickens could not be raised or produced for any profit-making venture. Roosters would be prohibited. All chickens would have to be kept in the backyard in an enclosure at least 5 feet away from any property line.

The enclosure would have to be screened all year with either landscaping or fencing. And the chickens wouldn't be able to create noise or odors at a level that would bother surrounding neighbors.

Some of the rules would mark a change for existing chicken owners. Vann said there is no hard count of the number of chickens in the city, but there are about a dozen families raising various number of chickens that staff members are aware of so far.

The six-chicken limit is based on Vann's calculations about the maximum number of chickens a residence on the smallest property zoned for single-family use could accommodate.

Only two chicken owners provided public comment for aldermen Monday night. Both asked for some leniency, or perhaps grandfathering, for chicken owners who now own more than six chickens.

Aldermen were receptive to that idea, but Vann said such grandfathering may not really be needed. The city does not issue permits to raise chickens. That means, unless there are complaints, no one will keep track of how many chickens someone raises.

"We're not going to go out and be the chicken police," Vann said. "We haven't had complaints. We believe the people who get into this really understand what they need to do."

The full city council must still take a final vote on the rules before they become active.

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