Family pleads for review of Mayer’s chicken ordinance

By Lorrie Ham

When the Boyd family of Mayer was notified by the city that they had 10 days to remove the chickens from their property in town, the family asked to be heard.
Upon learning from a citizen that the family had chickens on their property, which is a violation of the city code, the city staff followed procedure by sending notice of the violation and giving the family 10 days to remove the chickens from their property.
Linnea and Bob Boyd, along with their three young daughters, attended the Aug. 12 council meeting to ask the city to consider making a change to the ordinance that would allow them to keep their five hens.
After hearing Linnea Boyd’s impassioned plea, the council agreed to let the family keep the chickens for now while it considers a possible change to the ordinance.
“This has been an overwhelming and emotional situation for us,” said Boyd, who explained that raising hens is a “great educational tool” for her home-schooled daughters. “The hens are pets – they’re part of our family.”
The Boyds purchased the five hens – one for each member of the family – about a year and a half ago when they were just one day old to supplement the family’s organic lifestyle.
“We are working towards self-sufficiency,” Boyd explained.
The Boyds said they understand the need for regulation and asked if the council would consider a change to the ordinance to allow the chickens. Boyd provided photos of their chicken coop and copies of ordinances from other communities which allow chickens.
She also addressed several concerns that community members might have with their operation. As far as odor, the coop is kept very clean and the bedding material and straw are changed regularly, she said. The family only has hens, no roosters, so they are very quiet, she added. Some of their neighbors didn’t even know they had chickens, she said. The hens are kept in the coop or an attached run and never allowed to run free in the yard, she explained.
Since they are a home schooled family, they interact with the chickens throughout the day, Boyd said. “Every family member shares in the daily responsibilities of caring for the hens,” she added.
The family purchased the property on Ash Avenue North in Mayer’s business district in June with a dream of someday opening a small bakery and coffeehouse. The Boyds lived in Victoria when they bought the chickens. When they moved further west, Boyd said she assumed the chickens wouldn’t be a problem since they were further from the metro area.
Councilmember Tice Stieve-McPadden said she hears the chickens in the morning at times, but didn’t think of it as a problem.
“Barking dogs are much more annoying than chickens in this town,” said Stieve-McPadden.
Councilmember Erick Boder said he was open to reviewing the ordinance, but would support strict enforcement of any changes. “My concern is regulating the people who don’t take care of their animals,” he said.
Stieve-McPadden said the Boyds run a “nice, clean operation.” The only complaint about the chickens came from a citizen who was denied permission to keep chickens a year ago, she added.
In that situation, a resident approached the council about keeping chickens for his child’s 4-H project. That request was denied because the applicant didn’t have some things in place that the council would have liked to see.
“I think it’s time we look at our ordinance,” said Councilmember Bruce Osborn.
“I’d be willing to try to work through it,” said Mayor Mike Dodge, who suggested that the family work with the city administrator to put together a recommendation for the council to consider at a September meeting. “No guarantees, but we’ll see if we can come up with an ordinance that works for property owners without putting their neighbors in a bad spot.”
In another matter, Fire Chief Rod Maetzold introduced the city’s newest firefighter, Jared Switch. The council welcomed Switch to the department.