Chicken regulations unpopular with some in Ohio township
Amendment also sets standards for coop structures.
BATH TWP. (SUMMIT
What came first, COUNTY) — the chicken or the egg has taken on new meaning in the township, especially when the role of the rooster is included.
Trustees recently approved a zoning code amendment regulating the keeping of chickens and prohibiting roosters on properties under five acres. The change, which does not sit well with some in the township, was prompted by proposed state legislation that would regulate the keeping of chickens for communities that do not have regulations in place.
While the state proposal would permit 20 chickens per acre, Bath’s zoning amendment limits the number of chickens per household to none for properties under one-third acre; three chickens on properties that are one-third to a half acre, five chickens for half-acre to an acre and 10 birds for 1 acre to 5 acres. Properties above 5 acres are considered agricultural districts and exempt from the regulation.
The amendment came after months of discussions and public meetings.
“The legislation was adopted as a way to balance the township’s interest in allowing residents to own and maintain chickens for their own personal use through current township legislation, without falling under the more expansive provisions of the state code,” said Bath Administrator Vito Sinopoli.
“Times are changing, and people are looking at owning chickens to have their own eggs,” Bill Funk, Bath planning director/zoning inspector, said. “We wanted to accommodate those people.”
The amendment also sets standards for chicken-coop structures, chicken runs, disposal of manure and waste as well as nuisance issues. The most contested part of the amendment was the section prohibiting roosters
“The nuisance aspect of roosters was an important consideration in both the township’s resolution and the state code and for that reason under both pieces of legislation, roosters are prohibited [on properties under 5 acres],” Sinopoli said.
That doesn’t mean the sky is falling with the ban on roosters, Funk said, adding that there have been no complaints about crowing roosters.
“The zoning resolution is a working document, and if we see something that needs to be changed, the zoning commission can review it,” Funk said, adding that that includes dealing with the rooster prohibition.
“If you are complying with the permitted numbers, then the roosters would be grandfathered,” he said. “If, for example that rooster dies or is killed, you can appeal to the BZA [board of zoning appeals] as a nonconforming use for a variance to replace it.”
As those keeping chicken know, there are pluses and minuses to roosters.
“Chickens do very nicely without a rooster, and sometimes a rooster can get mean,” said Nancy Fay, who now has 55 chickens and one rooster in her flock on the family’s 11-plus acres. Those chickens produce enough eggs that Fay sells them in her business, the Bake Shop in Ghent.
“A chicken lays about five eggs a week, so you get almost one a day,” she said. “Our chickens are free range, so the eggs are local and they’re fresh; one day here and they’re gone!”
“In a small flock, a rooster will warn the chickens and sacrifice himself for his flock,” said Fay, citing hawks as her chickens’ main nemesis.
Trustee James Nelson cast the dissenting vote in the 2-1 vote on the chicken issue Nov. 6. He made a motion that died for lack of a second to remove the rooster prohibition.
Nelson explained that his interest in roosters was piqued after hearing residents passionately advocate for roosters at the October public hearing.
Tammy Parsons is another Bath resident who has made her feelings about roosters known, both during the October hearing and in a subsequent letter to Funk. Parsons asked trustees to be more realistic about the number of chickens per acre and to remove the prohibition on roosters and maybe limit their number as an alternative.
“Roosters are a major part of keeping the flock secure from predators, and they are indispensable for those who want to raise chicks,” she wrote to Funk.
Parsons, her husband and three daughters live on less than 2 acres in a densely populated part of Bath.
Sisters Julie 5 (left), Rosa 9, and Katie, 8, Parsons, collect eggs from the family chickens after arriving home from school Friday in Summit County.