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Rodent problem raised in Cottage Grove chicken debate

A question facing Cottage Grove City Council members is whether to allow homeowners in urban areas to keep chickens and other poultry on their property.

City officials posed that question to members of all of the city advisory commissions at a meeting Saturday at Cottage Grove City Hall.

The city has conducted several surveys about allowing chickens in residential areas, a request proposed by people interested in sustainability, introducing farm animals to children and raising their own food.

The majority of people surveyed are opposed and responded strongly in the negative objecting to odors and rodents attracted to chicken food, according to the city. Those in favor argue that chickens are no worse than keeping three dogs on one's property.

The discussion was originally prompted last year by families that keep chickens and ducks as pets, both living in residential areas of Cottage Grove.

Senior Planner John McCool polled 52 cities and said about two-thirds of them don't allow the keeping of chickens or ducks on lots smaller than five acres.

The remaining cities allow fowl on residential lots with permits and don't allow roosters or slaughtering. There are a variety of setbacks from coops, he said.

Other issues were raised during the Saturday discussion.

Neighbors who have dogs trained to bring birds to their masters might be a problem, McCool agreed.

St. Paul allows keeping chickens in residential areas with 68 permits and 75 percent of neighbors must agree.

St. Paul said their workers spend much time in permit monitoring and code enforcement. There are problems with dogs going on properties that have chickens as well as vandals, McCool said he was told.

Council member Derrick Lehrke said he wants facts before making a decision, including the actual number of rodent complaints in St. Paul.

There isn't a right or wrong answer, said Mayor Myron Bailey, except that the discussion has gone on "way too long." The planning commission said 'no' twice" and the public safety commission also declined to recommend changing the ordinance.

Other attending commissioners said they only debated the question as it applies to their area of expertise.

"If you can have three dogs," Lehrke said, "why not chickens?"

The council is expected to vote on the chicken issue at an upcoming meeting.

Judy Spooner
Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
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