After discovering that their pets aren’t allowed in village limits, a Swanton couple is leading an effort to change the municipal code.
Donna and Josh Rowe took in two chickens about a year ago. One had a bent beak, another had been badly hen-pecked and needed surgery, though it still lost vision in one eye.
“We had thought about maybe getting chickens before, and they kind of fell into our hands,” Mrs. Rowe said. “We thought it would be allowed here since it’s rural.”
PHOTO GALLERY: Saving the chickens
Despite its rural environment, Swanton prohibits residents from keeping livestock, including fowl or chickens, the Rowes discovered.
Some more urban communities in the region, including Toledo, allow chickens to be kept inside city limits. Dennis Kennedy, senior manager of Toledo’s code enforcement, said the city places few limits on chickens.
“Chickens are allowed until they become a nuisance for neighbors,” he said.
The city does not allow roosters, the hens must be contained on a property, and obnoxious odor and noise are prohibited. But residents are otherwise unrestricted from having the birds. Selling eggs falls under a separate section of code dealing with commercial activity.
Mr. Kennedy said the city receives a dozen or so calls a year about chickens. Most callers are inquiring about the legalities of having them, rather than registering complaints.
The Rowes approached the Swanton council last week with a proposal to allow five hens — no roosters — on a property. Their proposal detailed that a coop be at least 20 feet from another dwelling and be well maintained. Hens also would have to be confined on a property and selling eggs for profit would not be allowed.
“We had quite a few people supporting it,” Mrs. Rowe said. “People didn’t know that it wasn’t allowed.”
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Jon Gochenour, village administrator, said council forwarded the matter to the planning commission. The commission could have a recommendation for or against a code change at its Sept. 9 meeting.
“They are aware that other communities permit a limited number of chickens. So that’s the starting point for their research,” Mr. Gochenour said.
Mrs. Rowe said local 4-H groups are supportive of the measure because it would allow youth to raise chickens inside village limits for 4-H projects.
People who are interested in self-sustainability and organic or locally sourced food also have been supportive.
Lisa and Justen Pelton of South Toledo have had five chickens for about a year.
“I bet most of the people in our neighborhood don’t even know we have them,” Mrs. Pelton said. “They are pets and we love them. They are funny to watch.”
The family consumes the eggs and composts the birds’ waste for fertilizer on their gardens.
The chickens eat bugs, weeds, and table scraps, and the two Pelton children have learned more about where their food comes from and how it is produced.
“It’s a perfect system,” Mrs. Pelton said.
In 2012, Bowling Green discussed allowing chickens inside city limits.
The city ultimately decided against the measure after hearing comments on both sides of the issue. The city’s public information officer did not return a call from The Blade.
If Swanton decides against chickens, the Rowes will consider other avenues to change the code.
“If it gets turned down, we will plan on trying to put it on a ballot if we have to,” Mrs. Rowe said.