Beloit city commission to review backyard chickens proposal

Beloit Plan Commission to take up issue Wednesday

City leaders in Beloit will review a proposed ordinance Wednesday allowing urban residents to keep chickens.

The ordinance would allow residents living in a single family home to keep up to four chickens in their yard.

“Different breeds are heartier in different climates. There are a number of breeds that work well in Wisconsin that you wouldn’t even need to heat their coop,” said Kurt Handrich, of the group Beloit Backyard Chickens.

Handrich and other supporters said raising their own food is healthier and cheaper than buying organic.

“One hundred years ago, everybody had chickens in their back yard and most of the world people have chickens. It’s the way we’ve been for thousands of years. We just aren’t used to it. It’s like going back to your roots,” said Handrich.

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Members of Beloit Backyard Chickens have been working with city leaders to draft an ordinance.

Handrich said noise isn’t as big of a concern. Roosters, which are louder than chickens, are prohibited by the proposed ordinance. He said the fowl are easy to care for and produce less waste than a 40-pound dog.

But Drew Pennington, Beloit’s director of planning and building services, said the city doesn’t have the infrastructure needed to support this ordinance.

“We are recommending denial of that ordinance. Our concerns are numerous,” Pennington said. “Our streets and operations folks are concerned with disposal issues associated with manure, dead birds, et cetera. We don’t have animal control officers. We don’t have a Humane Society that can accept chickens. We don’t have code enforcement officers. Those are all prerequisites in our mind for a backyard chicken program.”

But supporters of backyard chickens said that despite a negative recommendation from the planning commission, they plan to keep pushing for changes.

“As a community we should be able to do this. People all over the world do this. Why would we be opposed to that?” Handrich said.

The plan commission is expected to make a recommendation on the proposed ordinance at a meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall.

Residents will also have an opportunity to give comments. The proposed ordinance will still go to the city council. A final decision isn’t expected before sometime next month.