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Bakersfield May Consider Backyard Chickens

Sep 19, 2012

Bakersfield may become the latest California city to consider loosening laws against raising chickens in residential backyards.

The Bakersfield Californian reports that the city's Legislative and Litigation Committee discussed the idea at a meeting on Tuesday. It's currently illegal to keep chickens in most residential areas in the city.

If the proposal moves forward and becomes law, Bakersfield could join cities such as Sacramento and San Diego which have recently changed laws to allow the practice. It's part of a nationwide trend driven by people who want to consume locally grown food. According to the Californian, committee member Sue Benham agrees: 

Councilwoman Sue Benham said urban farming -- city dwellers growing their own food or getting eggs from their own chickens, for example -- is growing in popularity.

"There is a real trend in this direction," Benham said. "People want control over their food supply" and are showing a preference for locally sourced food, she said.

But just because raising chickens in suburbia may be illegal in many cities, that doesn't mean it isn't already happening. Last year the Fresno Bee reported on Fresno's growing illegal backyard chicken movement: 

Fresno-area feed stores and chicken breeders have seen more people looking for supplies and chicks.

"We get calls every week," said MarlaEnns, owner of Chick-Ens n' Eggs, a chicken and egg seller in Fresno. "It really is amazing how much interest there is out there."


Many enthusiasts must skirt local laws. Within the Fresno and Clovis city limits, farm animals -- including chickens -- are illegal. But enforcement usually only happens after someone has complained. Many backyard chicken owners know that.

The Californian reports that some at Tuesday's meeting raised concerns about allowing chickens in city backyards, including Bakersfield's building director Phil Burns. He said that city has received 35 complaints about chickens so far this year.

"The clucks, chirps, crowing -- all those things can be a potential (problem)," he said. "What happens when the chickens stop laying eggs?" Burns asked, wondering aloud if that would cause the city's chicken population to run wild. 

Those sorts of concerns aren't unique to Bakersfield. Residents in other cities have voiced similar opposition to urban chicken farming, citing noise and concerns about the possibility of diseases. But that hasn't stopped cities from loosening restrictions to accommodate would-be backyard farmers.

Less than a year ago, the city of Sacramento changed its law to allow residents to keep as many as three hens in backyard areas. Residents have to obtain a permit for $15, and roosters aren't allowed. San Diego made a similar change in January.

Efforts are also underway in Fresno. A group called  Central California Local Urban Chicken Keepers (CCLUCK) is currently gathering signatures to petition the city council to change Fresno's ordinance to allow residents to keep up to four hens in their backyard.

Bakersfield's  Legislative and Litigation Committee plans to revisit the issue next month, and directed city staff to research how other cities have dealt with the issue.