Tulsa City Councilors say interest in raising chickens for eggs and meat has increased as citizens have been cooped up during the pandemic, and the council is considering pecking away at limits on the number of chickens allowable under law and the minimum distance of shelters from homes.
At a Wednesday meeting of the council's urban and economic development committee, Councilor Kara Joy McKee said this is a food access issue.
"Feeding your family, whether it's just eggs or also eating chickens, that does take a fair bit, and right now we have a lot of people in dire straits, so I do want to make sure we allow as many as is safe to allow," McKee said.
The draft ordinance change would raise the maximum number of adult hens on lots zoned for strictly residential use from 6 to 8. On lots zoned both agricultural and residential, the limit would be 25 adult hens for lots up to one acre in size, with additional chickens allowed on a scale based on acreage. Roosters would still be prohibited on all residential lots.
"In my district I have probably quite a few chickens compared to some," said Councilor Connie Dodson. "I know a lot of the concern out here with regard to roosters has been the noise, which, I mean, I realize they crow, but then you have neighborhood dogs, you have owls, you have hawks, you have other things that make noises, as well. So I don't see a big issue with roosters, myself. Maybe that's more the country girl in me."
Councilor Crista Patrick raised the issue of the proposed ordinance's minimum distance of 40 feet from a chicken coop to the nearest residence, saying that would keep many of her constituents from being able to lawfully raise chickens due to the constraints of lot size.
"In this time of crisis, there are lots of people looking to have chickens that don't have the required 40 feet from spaces because their lots are almost 50 feet wide," Patrick said, adding she would like to look into the potential for a variance or waiver system if neighbors don't object.
"If that's a viable way for families to be able to have nutrition, and their neighbors don't care, let's provide them a legal way to be able to do that," Patrick said.
Luisa Krug of the city's planning office told councilors she would look into the viability of the proposal. The council took no action on the proposed ordinance change, and it was unclear when or if they would take the yoke and call a vote.