In March of 2014, then Town Planner Rob Testerman was tasked with researching the feasibility of an ordinance that would allow people to keep chickens in the backyard. In a report to the Planning Commission, Testerman stated, “If written properly, a backyard chicken ordinance is feasible for Cape Charles. It boils down to whether or not the Town wants it.” Testerman looked at things like noise, odor, disease, predators and lot sizes, but he determined that a chicken ordinance could be enforced the same way as other town ordinances.
While Testerman was instructed to draft a chicken ordinance, it was eventually voted down by town council. The town’s ban on agricultural activities in residential areas remains unchanged, and contains no exception for chickens.
Three years later, the movement to revisit the chicken ordinance is beginning to gain momentum. For many, the defeat of the chicken ordinance was more a reflection of a weak town council than a convincing counter argument. With new members, many are hoping the issue can be taken up once again.
Addressing the concerns:
-Noise: If you don’t have roosters, chickens aren’t noisy. Hens cluck softly all day long, and then return to the coop at dusk and remain quiet all night.
-Smell: A small flock of two or three chickens will create a comparable amount of litter as an average dog. The coop should not smell if it is kept clean. The draft ordinance included a “well-maintained coop,” section. Owners could be cited under the law.
-Predators: Chickens can fall prey to foxes, coyotes, opossums, raccoons, hawks, and sometimes neighboring dogs. There are ways to keep them safe, and it should be the responsibility of the chicken owner to do that. Whether chickens will create a substantial uptick in predators coming into town may be something to consider.
Is it time to allow chickens into Cape Charles? Comment here, or send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.