Monday, December 11, 2006

Woman prepares to fight for her chickens

Woman prepares to fight for her chickens: Kent resident will speak to City Council about ban on poultry in small yards

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By Bruce Rommel
Journal Reporter

KENT — If people can have a kennel in the backyard and one or two big barking dogs, what's wrong with having a chicken coop and keeping a few hens?

That's one of the questions Tami Jayne Jackson has for the Kent City Council.

Jackson plans to be at Tuesday night's meeting, asking council members to consider changing the ordinance that bans livestock, poultry or fowl unless you have an extra-large home lot.

"Chickens don't take up that much space," said Jackson, whose six hens scratch around an enclosed pen in the backyard of her East Hill home.

So far, she's won support from City Council President Deborah Ranniger, who notes that even in urban Seattle, people may legally keep chickens or rabbits in small backyards.

"If Seattle can do that, I don't know why Kent can't," Ranniger said.

The councilwoman said she wants to ask the city's planning staff to review the ordinance and come up with some options for review.

"I think there's a lot of interest in keeping chickens or rabbits," said Ranniger, who had a pet rabbit in the yard when her children were little.

Council members are scheduled to vote Tuesday on a list of land-use issues to be considered next year. Jackson wants codes involving animals added to the list.

She and her husband, Doug Grimes, have been notified by city code enforcement officers that the hens at their home at Southeast 283rd Street and 144th Avenue Southeast are in violation of codes.

They could be fined up to $500 per day by a hearing examiner as long as the chickens remain. But a code enforcement officer said the city isn't taking any action until the City Council decides whether to review the issue.

Some cities allow poultry in smaller yards, while Kent requires a yard of 20,000 square feet or larger to keep poultry or livestock.

Jackson's yard is about 12,000 square feet.

Seattle allows up to three chickens in any backyard. Angelina Shell of Seattle Tilth, an organization that promotes organic gardening, said "hundreds of people" in Seattle have urban chickens.

"A lot of yards in Seattle are about 3,000 square feet," Shell said.

Jackson keeps hens for the fresh eggs and composts straw and manure from their pen for the garden.

"I don't want roosters because they can crow all day and annoy the neighbors," she said.

Keeping chickens at home.