City may let residents keep chickens, rabbits

City Council will discuss changing code during March 28 meeting

Hannah Grover,
  • Residents currently have to apply for a special-use permit to keep chickens or rabbits.
  • The proposed changes in the code will not allow residents to keep roosters.
  • The changes will include specific requirements for how the animals should be kept.

FARMINGTON — The city of Farmington is considering allowing residents to keep up to six chickens or rabbits on residential property.

The City Council will discuss changing the code to allow chickens or rabbits during its 6 p.m. March 28 meeting at 800 Municipal Drive in Farmington.

City Planner Cindy Lopez explained the number of animals was calculated using the current codes for dogs and cats, and the size of the smallest residential lots in Farmington. She said the code allows for four dogs or four cats or a combination of cats and dogs adding up to four.

Currently, any city resident who wants to keep chickens or rabbits has to apply for a special-use permit. The city charges an $80 fee to process those permits and requires the applicant to go to a title company to acquire a list of nearby properties so the city can ask the neighbors for comments. That can cost residents hundreds of dollars, Lopez said during a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting Thursday.

Many people who have applied for the special-use permits already have acquired chickens or rabbits without realizing it is against code, Lopez said.

"I think there are a lot of chickens and rabbits out there that we don't know about because the fences are so tall, and nobody's complained," said Joyce Cardon, chairwoman of the city Planning and Zoning Commission, during Thursday's meeting.

A chicken wanders in Michelle Williams' back yard on Webb Road in Farmington on Thursday.

The advantage of a special-use permit is that it requires people to submit plans for how the animals will be kept. Because the city will not review the conditions prior to people obtaining the animals, the code will include specific requirements for how the animals should be kept. Each animal would need 10 square feet of fenced land and 2 square feet of shelter. The chickens and rabbits would require a shelter at least 15 feet from a neighbor's house.

Farmington resident Michelle Williams' property was grandfathered in, which means she already is allowed to keep chickens.

"I think it's a great idea," she said. "You know, the hens and the rabbits, they don't bother the neighbors."

While Williams keeps roosters, she said she understands why the city is not considering allowing them as part of the changes. She said hers begin to crow around 3:30 a.m. Williams' neighbors are all her tenants. She said if tenants complain about the crowing, she moves the birds to a different pen.

Farmington resident Michelle Williams has been allowed to keep chickens in her backyard because her property was grandfathered in when the practice was prohibited.

Over the past year, the Farmington Regional Animal Shelter has received several rabbits and roosters. The shelter has a room set aside for small animals like rabbits. However, it has kept the roosters in an outdoor space.

"They usually aren't here that long," Director Stacie Voss said about the roosters, but she acknowledged that the shelter environment often causes them to become stressed and isn't the best environment for them.

Voss fears that allowing chickens and rabbits inside city limits could lead to an increased number winding up in the shelter. But she said there also might be more people able to adopt them under those circumstances.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.