(image by Leslie Phipps)
The topic of chickens and eggs came up before the February 19 La Mesa Planning Commission hearing on a zoning amendment to allow residents in single-family homes to keep poultry — excluding roosters.
The meeting opened with an invocation by commissioner Michele Hottel. She read a C.S. Lewis quote: "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird…. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad."
The commission voted unanimously to recommend that the city council approve the change that allows one domestic fowl per 2000 square feet of lot area, with a maximum of 20 birds. Fowl include chickens, turkeys, and ducks. Enclosures (coops) must comply with setback requirements and be located a minimum of 25 feet from neighboring homes. In addition, feed must be stored in a "secured, sealed container."
Before the hearing, five people signed a city survey about the amendment. Three supported it and two opposed it. One resident on each side spoke at length during the hearing.
Supporter Patrick Dean advocated an increase in the number of chickens allowed. He said the average lot size is 6000 square feet, permitting only three chickens. Dean said chickens are "social animals" and "you want them to produce eggs. I think people want to take control of their food." He said a "setback for a big dog would require more space than [one] for six chickens."
A hen usually lays one egg per day, and Hottel point out that three chickens would produce 21 eggs in a week. She said her family of five includes three teenagers, and "I don’t think we go through a dozen eggs" a week.
Amendment opponent Kathleen Smith spoke about problems related to neighbors who kept chickens in a coop located "against their house and 15 feet from my deck. The flies became such a problem."
Smith said she put flytraps out and that her neighbors told her that the chickens were their children's responsibility.
Smith said the chickens are gone, and, community development director Bill Chopyk pointed out that the city has a code-enforcement officer.
Associate planner Allyson Kinnard described elements of the city's current municipal ordinance that cover issues such as noise. The ordinance prohibits the keeping of animals and poultry, including roosters, that "emit loud or raucous cries." The prohibition extends to any species and either gender of animals and birds. The ordinance also stated, "refuse, excrement, and manure, shall not be permitted to accumulate on any premises." The city requires storage of those materials in a "fly-tight container" pending removal from the premises. Fly-tight containers are also required for dead animals prior to removal.
Kinnard said she spoke to EDCO, the general waste-hauling facility for the city, and EDCO said "the individual disposal of a dead chicken would be fine." Although mass disposal hasn't been an issue, the city's animal-control officer could discuss arrangements, Kinnard said.
The council hearing on the amendment is scheduled for March 25, said Chopyk.