Murrayites can welcome chickens to their coopMar 02, 2021 12:41PM ● By Shaun Delliskave
Murray residents will now be permitted to raise chickens in their yard. (Photo courtesy Utah State University)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
Why did the chicken cross the road? Because they are welcome in Murray. At the Feb. 2 Murray City Council meeting, city councilors voted unanimously to allow residents in non-agricultural zoned areas to raise chickens.
In 2016, a similar motion was defeated in the city council. Due to an increased interest in gardening and self-sufficiency because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the city council revisited the issue.
A survey was sent to Murray residents to gauge how they would respond to having chickens in Murray. There were over 1,000 replies. Most of the responses came from homeowners that live in a single-family dwelling; 79% said chickens should be allowed in residential zones.
Before the ordinance, owning chickens in residential areas was a violation of the city code. One chicken, the rooster, will still be prohibited, mainly due to the male bird’s crowing. The ordinance only allows for chicken hens, not domesticated ducks, geese or other fowl.
At the Dec. 17, 2020 planning commission meeting, Murray resident Alex Teemsma said, “This is a great ordinance and is overdue. A well-crafted ordinance should reward transparency. Getting this on the books will encourage people to disclose if they are keeping chickens. He asked if there would be a fine if someone were in violation of the proposed ordinance.”
In the ordinance, the maximum number of chickens allowed is based on the property’s square footage. Coops need to be 10 feet from the dwelling on the property, 25 feet from the adjacent residence, and 5 feet from the property line setback. Most cities in Salt Lake County, except for Millcreek and Sandy, allow chickens and the number of chickens allowed depends on the lot size.
Heydon Kaddas, a Murray resident, told the commission, “Owning chickens is a huge risk for salmonella outbreaks, and it’s something the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has had to address frequently over the last 10 years. The CDC has had to repeatedly post guidelines on how to sanitarily have chickens.” She encouraged the commission to have some type of registration that would provide safe practices on keeping chickens.
Before purchasing a bird, Murray residents must register their flock with the city and agree to the ordinance restrictions, such as prohibiting the birds’ outdoor slaughter.
Murray resident Jann Cox told the planning commission, “I am opposed to allowing residential chicken keeping. Chickens, their eggs, feed and feces attract rats, raccoons, fox, skunks and other rodents. Because many Murray homes border, or are close to, the Jordan River, Cottonwood Creek, and many canals, we have raccoons, fox and skunks. Allowing chickens will bring these animals into our many neighborhoods. We already have a skunk and rat problem in Murray, and I hate to see it get worse.”
The ordinance requires chicken owners to keep coops and runs clean and well maintained, in such a manner to promote the health of the chickens, to mitigate odor sources, and to limit the presence of rodents, insects, vermin, pests and disease. Owners must also ensure that feed containers are made of rodent- and predator-proof materials.
If a homeowner does not follow the ordinance, then the city has several recourses. Mainly, if a complaint comes in, the city’s zoning enforcement officer could go onto the property to ensure the ordinance standards are being met. If they aren’t, it could be referred to Salt Lake County for health requirements, or the zoning enforcement officer could require the resident to come into compliance with the ordinance.
For many aspiring urban agriculturalists, the appeal of having chickens is the eggs. The number of eggs a chicken lays in a day can vary depending on several factors. While most chickens are known to lay five eggs a week or once every other day, the number of eggs can also depend on breed, age and environment.
More information regarding Murray’s residential chicken keeping standards can be found online at www.murray.utah.gov.