Chicken issue get plucked for now

Posted Tuesday, Jul. 16, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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After months of discussion and surveys, the Weatherford City Council reached the decision in their meeting July 9 to keep city ordinances as they are and not allow chickens in the city limits.

During their meeting Feb. 26, the council first discussed the possibility of allowing chickens back into the city.

Originally, Weatherford allowed them but the ordinance was changed when they decided not to let animals be sold at the fairgrounds during First Mondays events.

Council member Waymon Hamilton said he thought that since selling animals is again permitted, then owning chickens should also be allowed.

Hamilton and council member Craig Swancy both spoke in favor of changing the ordinance so residents desiring to own chickens could have that chance.

Citizen Jarrod Pearson moved to Weatherford three years ago from Houston, where he and his family were able to raise chickens, and said he had hoped it would be allowed in Weatherford as well.

“The quality of life is improved with chickens,” Pearson said as he recalled being able to have fresh eggs as well as just raising the chickens with his children.

In a survey done by the city, 55 percent of citizens who participated were for allowing chickens while 45 percent were against.

Members of the council worried that the results of the survey were divided too narrowly to make a decision based only on that since many residents they spoke with were against it.

An issue raised by council members Jeff Robinson and Heidi Wilder was that of enforcement of the restrictions that would come with the new ordinance such as the number of hens and then distance between coops and other buildings.

“It’s a tremendous code enforcement problem,” Wilder said, even of the current ordinance that prohibits chickens.

Robinson pointed out that despite chickens being illegal, some residents still currently own them.

He said if they legalized owning them, it would probably only ask for more problems enforcing the code since many residents don’t own enough property to own chickens under the proposed ordinance.

“If people did it by the letter of the ordinance it would probably be okay,” Robinson said. “My fear is when people hear it’s legal they’re gonna run out and buy chickens and will be in violation.”

City Administrator Jerry Blaisdell said animal control would enforce the law, but they are only able to enforce it when they are called and informed of a violation.

“I don’t think it’s the lack of enforcement but the difficulty of enforcement,” Blaisdell said.

Mayor Dennis Hooks said he did not like the idea of restricting residents’ rights but also said he wanted to do what is best for the city.

Robinson agreed that over-regulation is not their goal, but protection is.

“It’s a protection for people to have the kind of neighborhood they want to live in,” Robinson said

The council denied the proposed change to the ordinance with a 3-2 vote against allowing chickens.

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