Photo by Matt Houston

County backyard chicken rules finally hatch

Why’d the chicken cross the road?

To move her family into a new coop in a single-family residential zoning district that she’s now allowed to live in.

This week Sarasota County finally hatched new rules allowing backyard chickens in more residential neighborhoods than ever following months of incubation.

The new rules allow residents to keep up to four hens — but no roosters — on property within single-family residential areas, not just the agricultural zones where they already are allowed.

The vote is a major victory for the aptly named advocacy group CLUCK, an acronym for “Citizens Lobbying for Urban Chicken Keeping,” which has been egging on county commissioners to expand their rules since the city of Sarasota allowed backyard chickens in early 2012.

The new rules largely follow the city of Sarasota’s and prohibit the slaughter of hens and the sale of eggs or other related products onsite. They also establish guidelines regarding the type, size and placement of coops on properties and standards regarding odor and the prevention of rodents and other pests.

While the new rules met little resistance at the county level, how to regulate certain aspects of chicken keeping scrambled commission meetings for months.

But after more than a half-dozen hearings over the past year, the commission voted 4-1 on Monday to finally approve the changes.

Only Commissioner Christine Robinson voted against the rules amid concerns that they do not require chicken owners to periodically move their coops to combat smell and could pose a code enforcement issue.

Homeowners associations and deed-restricted communities may consider their own regulations or prohibitions on backyard chickens beyond what the county rules outline, county leaders have said.

Any unwanted chickens can be taken to the county’s Health and Human Services Mosquito Control Division to become part of the Sentinel Chicken Program, through which officials use chickens to monitor mosquito-borne illnesses, leaders have added.

CLUCK founder Jono Miller was unflappable Monday night and thanked commissioners for their support.

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Zach Murdock

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