By SAM HOUSEHOLDER
---- — GOSHEN — Goshen residents may be able to raise chickens in their yards if a proposed ordinance advances Tuesday at the City Council meeting.
City Council members Dixie Robinson and Everett Thomas helped draft a “Keeping Chickens Ordinance,” which will be discussed at the meeting.
The ordinance comes from months of work by Thomas and Robinson and community members who were part of a committee to draft the ordinance.
Robinson and Thomas both said they have been approached in recent years by members of the community who were interested in keeping chickens. One such group is the Facebook group “Hens for Goshen,” which had 165 members as of Saturday.
Currently, according to Facebook group founder John Nafziger, if a Goshen resident wants to keep chickens in their yard they need to get a zoning variance from the Board of Zoning Appeals.
“It’s time consuming, to prove to the board you can have the chickens. But sometimes all it takes is one neighbor to say no and they won’t let you get it,” Nafziger said.
According to Nafziger, the cost of a obtaining a variance is around $150.
Thomas said the committee looked at similar ordinances other communities have adopted. Nafziger said he knows of 14 cities in Indiana that have chicken-keeping ordinances.
The proposed ordinance would allow city residents to keep up to six hens with some restrictions and excludes roosters.
For example, the chickens shall be used for non-commercial use, no selling of eggs or fertilizer and chickens may not be bred or slaughtered on the property. There are also regulations pertaining to the enclosures in which the chickens should be kept and the upkeep of those structures.
Thomas said the committee looked at South Bend’s ordinance, which was passed in January of 2013, as well as other cities’ ordinances from around the country.
“It was reference point for the legal department to write what we have before us,” Thomas said.
Nafziger said he has prepared a presentation for the meeting Tuesday about the benefits of raising chickens.
“One of the big things is having our own local food, knowing exactly where our food is coming from,” he said during a phone interview.
“My wife and I are gardeners and chickens are good for gardens. Their fertilizer (is good) and they eat bugs and weeds.
You can kind of think of them as machines that turn seeds and table scraps into eggs,” he said.
Nafziger said that chickens are “sustainable” and people enjoy watching chickens.
“They are entertaining, kids like watching them and adults for that matter,” he said.
Robinson agrees that chickens can be educational for children.
“I think its good for children to know where their food comes from,” she said. “I think it’s a good thing for young people to know.”
However the ordinance isn’t without concerns, even from some of the committee members.
Thomas has said his issue with the proposal is in regards to disposal of unwanted chickens.
“The concern I have is what does an owner do when they want to dispose of them,” he said. “The people cannot release them, butcher them or take them to the (county animal) shelter.
“I’ve proposed a provision that would require some matter of disposition,” he said but added, “The committee has been unwilling to add that procedure to the resolution.”
I think the ordinance would be stronger if it covered that,” he said.
Thomas said he was still unsure if he would support the ordinance in a vote and would not know until the discussion at the meeting was finished.
Nafziger likes the ordinance’s chance for approval Tuesday.
“I’m optimistic, but it depends on the conversation at the meeting,” he said.
Robinson said she hopes that Thomas’ concerns, as well as any other resident’s concerns are addressed at the meeting and encouraged those to turn out to the meeting in order for those issues to be addressed.
“What I would say is that if people have an opinion about it they should come to the council and voice their opinion,” she said,