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Placer’s urban chicken farmers crowing victory in rule change

By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County could soon allow non-farming home-dwellers up to six chickens – double the original staff plans. And it had at least one outlaw chicken owner crowing victory. Tahoe-area resident Dan Warren – owner of two chickens and proud of it – had threatened to take the issue to court as an infringement on his rights after the county fielded a complaint about his illegal poultry possession. Thursday, he attended a Planning Commission workshop. While arguing that the county could give chicken ownership even more leeway, Warren expressed satisfaction that at least some changes were being made. “They’re good as pets – just as much as dogs and cats are,” Warren said. The county’s Planning Commission agreed at the workshop with a revised staff proposal supported by the Agricultural Commission that would change zoning regulations. The changes would allow a half-dozen chickens per household in residential subdivisions. No chickens are now allowed. Commissioners at the workshop also said they favored a minimum lot size of 5,000 square feet for raising the hen chickens – no roosters allowed – and scrapping plans to eliminate a review by county staff that would have a $55 fee attached. But commissioners decided not to wade into the area of animal rights, including treatment of chickens and pen sizes, citing regulations already in place. The move to loosen zoning regulations for chicken ownership in unincorporated areas of the county follows requests from the public as well as the lone threat of court action by Warren, Senior Planner Charlene Daniels said. The owner who was prepared to go to court – Truckee’s Dan Warren – described to commissioners Thursday how his own two chickens are treated like pets. Chicken ownership in urban and semi-rural areas is also becoming more popular because of a movement toward locally grown food. “There are a lot of Web sites for urban chicken keeping,” Daniels said. “It’s surprising how many cities already allow them, including Roseville, Folsom and Auburn.” Agricultural Commissioner Christine Turner spoke in favor of the idea of dropping plans to have staff review each application for raising chickens. “It seems like a lot of government for the keeping of three chickens,” Turner said. “As agricultural commissioner, I’ve been involved with issues surrounding the whole food movement and people are asking government for more ability to raise their own food.” Most potential chicken owners want to raise hens for their eggs, Turner said. Lee Bastien, a Sheridan resident and 4-H poultry advisor, said he liked the idea of loosening current regulations banning the keeping of chickens on residential parcels. “Residential people are coming back to it,” Bastien said. He also supported an increase in the chickens allowed on residential property to six from the planned three. “With three, you don’t get enough eggs,” Bastien said. “You need six to feed a family of four.” The workshop drew no speakers against the proposal to allow subdivision chickens. With input from the Planning Commission workshop, Daniels said the zoning text amendment on chickens will be revised and staff will complete an environmental review before bringing it back to the Planning Commission.