The Stearns County Board of Commissioners recently approved the allowance of chickens in residential areas. The move comes after a long debate about whether the animals were an appropriate fit.
They are. If they are contained and coops are kept up, the commission determined chickens pose no hindrance to the quality of life. The board’s decision is a positive step forward for the area. With a heightened environmental awareness of how our food is grown and where it comes from, the allowance supports a burgeoning movement toward healthier living such as raising free-range chickens.
Specifically, the board of commissioners voted April 24 to change the county’s Land Use and Zoning Ordinance to allow for chickens in R-1 and R-5 districts.
In R-1 zoning districts, up to 12 chickens will be allowed per residence. In R-5 zoning districts, 15 chickens will be allowed per acre, with an additional four permitted per additional acre up to five acres, allowing for a maximum of 31 chickens in an R-5-zoned residence, according to the county.
All chickens in residential districts must be confined with a coop and/or fence and set back 10 feet from all property lines.
The raising of chickens in residential districts will be allowed as a provisional use. This means the birds must be registered with Stearns County’s Environmental Service Department. Commissioners will revisit the rule in one year to see how its working.
Knowing more about your food is at the forefront of not only health discussions but part of a push for more sustainable living.
In recent years there has been a push for raising chickens in backyards. Advocates for backyard chickens argue the eggs pose less risk of salmonella, taste better and are higher in protein. Concerns from opponents include worry about odor and safety.
Many area cities – Sartell, Waite Park, Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud – classify chickens as farm animals and allow them only in areas zoned for agricultural use, effectively outlawing most backyard flocks. St. Joseph considered modifying its laws to allow backyard chickens years ago, but it did not move forward. The cities of Brainerd and Mankato have made provisions to allow urban flocks.
While the board’s decision applies to very large lots, it’s still a sign of progress.