After looking at Tuesday’s Lawrence City Commission agenda, it’s not difficult to understand why it has taken a little time to formulate a proposed ordinance to allow Lawrence residents to raise chickens and ducks on their property.
The city isn’t usually in the business of regulating farm animals, and the attorneys clearly didn’t want to leave anything to chance. The result is an ordinance that may discourage many would-be fowl-keepers.
The ordinance would allow people to keep ducks and female chickens within city limits. It makes sense not to allow crowing roosters, but some people had wanted to allow male chickens up to a year old. The ordinance says “no;” it’s too hard to monitor the age of a chicken.
The ordinance also sets out exactly how many chickens people can keep based on the size of their lots: up to one bird per 500 square feet of lot space up to a maximum of 20 birds. And, of course, the birds need their own space. That would entail at least 3 square feet of coop space for each chicken or duck and a roost at least eight inches long and a laying box of at least one square foot for every three chickens. Fortunately, chicken coops of less than 120 square feet would not require a building permit.
Many residents question the need to allow chickens in the city in the first place, and we certainly don’t want such enterprises to produce unsanitary and unsightly conditions in residential areas. The details of the chicken ordinance are almost humorous, but experience tells us it’s probably better safe than sorry.