The Belgrade City Council will once again take up the issue of backyard chicken ownership Monday.
The issue has been a back-and-forth agenda item since September, after a handful of residents approached the council seeking an ordinance amendment that would allow the raising of urban chickens. Backyard bird proponents have said they have about 100 signatures in favor of the measure.
The ordinance passed first reading in October, but the issue died on a tie vote the following month. Mayor Russ Nelson, a professed chicken fan, was not in attendance due to a hunting trip.
Nelson brought the issue back up last month for another first reading in an effort to bring a resolution to the matter in front of a full council. Nelson cast the tie-breaking vote, with the rest of the council casting votes identical to November's.
After the December meeting, though, Nelson said he wasn't as strong a supporter of chickens as he was in the past. While he spelled out several positives about owning backyard birds, people opposed to the issue have started to chip away at his stance, mostly due to offending odors from coops.
If approved, the draft ordinance would allow residents to keep six chickens per single-family residential lot, according to city records. Residents of multifamily housing and those whose single-family lots are smaller than 7,000 square feet would not be allowed to own chickens. Roosters are also prohibited.
Also, chickens must reside in coops during nighttime hours and coops cannot be closer than 20 feet from a neighboring structure or city street, according to the ordinance. Coops are only allowed in backyards.
The rule also requires chicken owners to receive neighbor approval before harboring birds and two or more objecting property owners could trigger a public hearing.
The city animal control officer would enforce the ordinance and would have the ability to inspect any suspected offenders, according to city records.
A similar ordinance has been enacted in both Bozeman and Manhattan.
The ordinance is available on the city's Web site at www.ci.belgrade.mt.us. The meeting gets underway at 7 p.m. at City Hall at 91 E. Central Ave.