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Best-laid plans form new backyard chicken ordinance

Plumas County supervisors didn’t run afoul of what planning commissioners laid out for them in a recommendation for backyard chickens Tuesday, Nov. 12.

All four supervisors approved the new countywide ordinance allowing the keeping of backyard chickens in residential areas.

This is just the most recent among a flock of recommendations presented to supervisors from planning commissioners in the past few months.

Assistant Planner Tim Evans was before supervisors explaining the planning commission’s draft ordinance covering backyard chickens. “I worked on the chicken ordinances,” he said, meaning he was the staff member assigned to do the research on what other counties and cities are doing.

Commissioners hatched the draft ordinance following a number of workshops open to anyone either pro or against having backyard chickens in residential areas in Plumas County.

The new ordinance amending Title 9 added Article 43 to the nest of other regulations governed by Plumas County Planning and Zoning.

Until supervisors approved the new ordinance, the keeping of chickens in areas zoned 2-R, 3-R and 7-R single-family residential zones was not permitted, Evans explained.

Residential zones that have always allowed chickens are suburban (S-1), secondary (S3), rural (R-10), rural (R-20) and residential zones combined with F for farm animals.

“Plumas County Zoning Code is a Euclidean zoning code,” Evans said. “If the use is not specified in the zoning code, the use is not permitted.”

Along with where backyard chickens are permitted, and definitions of such terms as chicken, backyard chickens, chicken coop, coop, chicken run and run, commissioners also discussed parameters of the ordinance.

What’s allowed?

Residents on a standard residential single-family parcel are allowed to have six chickens. “If the parcel is twice or more the minimum lot area of the zoning, a maximum of 12 chickens are permitted,” he explained.

Standards for keeping backyard chickens were also incubated within the ordinance.

Subsections include the general requirements and the design requirements sections.

Under general requirements, chickens are only allowed on properties containing a single-family dwelling with a fenced rear yard. Owners must remove and dispose of animal waste.

The design requirements section establishes how the chicken coop and the run are designed, and the necessary setbacks for the coop and the run.

What’s not allowed?

Prohibited uses include no commercial sale of eggs, no slaughter and the most contentious — no roosters, Evans said.

During the workshops, Evans said that it was split about 50/50 for those supporting roosters and those not wanting them. It came down to commissioners and the code enforcement officer deciding that roosters in residential areas are not desired.

General plan

Evans went on to state that the ordinance is consistent with the Plumas County 2035 General Plan.

It also helps satisfy three goals, three policies and one implementation measure of the Public Health and Safety Element, and Agriculture and Forestry Element in the plan.

Just how does this ordinance affect the General Plan? “The proposed ordinance helps implement Goal 6.8 Healthy Communities, which states, ‘To support the community values for healthy lifestyles and access to health care facilities among residents of Plumas County through the built environment and land-use decisions that play an important role in shaping the pattern of community development and in promoting good health and food security for visitors and county residents,’” according to Evans.

Under that same goal, the ordinance also satisfies the Public Health and Safety Element by supporting local, organic and grass-fed agriculture provisions.

This is done by showing that the county is encouraging and protecting a variety of local ecologically sound agricultural practices by increasing on-farm income, diversifying local agricultural production, and providing a health and secure food source that complies with accepted public health and safety standards.

Plumas County Environmental Health Director Jerry Sipe was involved in the process as planning commissioners gathered pertinent information for the draft. Sipe reminded commissioners that eggs cannot be sold commercially and that a permit is necessary.

Sipe also assisted in producing regulations about backyard waste from chickens and other related concerns.

Implementation also satisfies the need to encourage countywide food security by allowing limited backyard small animal husbandry, including chickens for home-scale food production based on appropriate zoning.

The approved draft also satisfies the commitment for community food security by encouraging self-reliance and resiliency.

The ordinance implements Goal 8.4 dealing with sustainable food systems. This goal is under the agriculture and forestry element within the General Plan.

Under this section the ordinance encourages and protects local, organic, grass-fed and/or ecologically sound agricultural practices that increase farm income and provide for a healthy local food supply.

Planning commissioners approved the draft ordinance in a resolution May 16. The planning commission met requirements for workshops and public hearings.

Discussion

Supervisor Jeff Engel asked Evans if a “de-crowed” rooster is allowed?

Evans answered with a simple, “No.”

The plan says no roosters and it means no roosters. Some backyard chicken owners might want to keep a rooster and could get their feathers ruffled by the approved ordinance, but they will have to eliminate the rooster.

Supervisor Lori Simpson asked what chicken owners were expected to do about the birds and the bees? She meant having a rooster around to fertilize eggs to produce chicks.

But Evans continued that roosters aren’t allowed for any reason. People will need to get their chicks from another source.

Engel added that people also wouldn’t get fertilized eggs if that were their preference to eat.

In turn, supervisors feathered out their requirements by waiving the first reading of the ordinance Nov. 12, holding a public hearing and conducting a roll call vote.

For specifics on chicken coop and run requirements, contact the Plumas County Planning Department at 283-7011, or drop by the department at 555 Main St. (and Bucks Lake Road) in Quincy.

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