The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
City Council deals with fowl, buzzing issues
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
If you dream of waking up in the morning, walking into your yard inside Fredericksburg’s city limits and collecting your own breakfast eggs from beneath the feathered derrières of your very own chickens, take heart—the city might let you soon.
Council members heard a remarkably detailed report Tuesday evening on the ramifications of creating an ordinance to allow city residents to own chickens and bees.
In May, the city received a citizen petition from people who want to keep chickens or bees in the city limits. Both are currently prohibited, although it turns out Fredericksburg is the only city or town in Virginia that bans beekeeping.
Allowing bees sounds relatively easy—apparently the only real issue is making sure beekeepers have a fence or other barrier around their property that forces the bees to fly higher.
Beekeepers would also need to make sure they have a water source near the hive, as bees need freshwater and will go to the closest source—including the neighbor’s pool or wet laundry line.
But chickens appear to be more complicated.
The report—compiled by Dori Martin, a law intern in city attorney Kathleen Dooley’s office—recommends limiting city chicken ownership to four laying hens. No roosters, as they’re loud and not required for the hens to actually lay eggs, and no turkeys, guineas or other fowl.
Martin said four hens could produce one and a half to two dozen eggs a week—enough to provide omelets for a family but not enough to encourage anyone to launch a business selling the extra eggs.
Location limits are also a concern; on small lots, people aren’t likely to want the neighbor’s chicken coop crammed against a close fence line.
The report proposed requiring “chicken housing” to be 20 feet from property lines, and to send city animal control officer Tom Worthy out to residences to ensure they have the space.
Council member Fred Howe said he agrees with concerns about space and the proposal to ban roosters, having had a bad experience with a rooster.
“Having had chickens, and unfortunately having a rooster in the process, which was not fun that was one of the bigger concerns that I had,” Howe said.
He also proposed a ban on butchering of backyard chickens. There was also talk about secure and safe chicken enclosures, to ensure that the chickens aren’t subject to inadvertent butchering by predators.
Worthy suggested issuing chicken permits good for a year, as a test. The permitting process would allow him to inspect the property to make sure it complies with the rules, and could provide the city with a way to encourage potential chicken owners to make sure they know what they’re getting into.
But Worthy also had concerns about proper fencing, to prevent escapes.
“A chicken running loose just in an open neighborhood, we currently have two guinea hens running loose, they’re impossible to catch,” he said.
Council member Bea Paolucci questioned how the council could legally go about allowing chickens, but no other livestock.
“Where are we going to draw the line here?” Paolucci asked. “How can we argue not allowing a llama, or a pig? Are you setting a precedent?”
Dooley assured her that a chickens-only ordinance would not be discrimination.
Council took no action on permitting chickens or bees in the city.
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028