Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lois Nafziger helps Hunter Ambrosen of Jones, Mich., feed chickens in the Hens for Goshen exhibit at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair Thursday, July 19. Hens for Goshen has been working with city officials to bring an ordinance before the Goshen City Council that would allow the keeping of hens within city limits. (J. Tyler Klassen/The Elkhart Truth)
Goshen Council may soon consider urban chickens

Posted on Feb. 10, 2014 at 3:32 p.m.

GOSHEN — Urban chicken advocates have ramped up efforts to bring their wishes to Goshen City Council members and it appears a proposed ordinance is on the horizon.

Hens for Goshen has spent the last few months speaking with and emailing city officials informing them of the groups goals.

The group began organizing through its Facebook group, urging members to call, write or speak with their council representatives.

Through several meetings between officials and advocates, they've worked at writing an ordinance that would be palatable to both groups.

The most recent meeting occurred two weeks ago, from which another draft of the proposed ordinance arose that would allow keeping chickens within city limits with certain restrictions.

The ordinance would allow chickens on the property of occupied single-family homes or on the property of a duplex where one of the residents owns the home.

Much like previous proposals, up to six chickens would be allowed as long as they are housed in an secure enclosure. No roosters or other birds would be permitted.

The facility and surrounding area would have to be well-maintained and owners who no longer want chickens would not be allowed to be turned loose or taken to an animal shelter.

While the proposal is nearing the point of introduction to the council, City Attorney Larry Barkes said some changes might still be made before the ordinance finally appears.

Barkes said the final draft of the ordinance is expected to appear before the council for consideration at the first meeting in March.

One of the major issues left to deal with is just what to do with hens when the owner no longer wants them.

John Nafziger, a major organizer of Hens for Goshen, has a few ideas of how to handle chickens in that situation.

One possibility would be to take hens to someone outside the city that butchers animals for a flat fee.

Another option would be to allow Hens for Goshen to take responsibility for solving the problem.

As Nafziger described it, Hens for Goshen could provide contact information for their group and could find a suitable place for hens through their large network.

Councilwoman Dixie Robinson suggested the chickens simply be taken to the country and offered to farmers, if the farmers want them.

Robinson was one of the first council members Hens for Goshen approached and has been working closely with the group to help craft an agreeable ordinance.

Her initial concerns about an ordinance allowing urban chickens centered around the cleanliness of chicken coops and the number of chickens allowed on a property.

Through the process of writing and rewriting the ordinance, however, those concerns have been assuaged, at least enough to where Robinson could support the ordinance enough to bring it before her peers.

She is co-sponsoring the ordinance with Everett Thomas, which means there are at least two council members that generally favor urban chickens.

Robinson believes the ordinance will have a chance at passing, but said "it all depends on what happens at the meeting."

She said even her vote on the ordinance will depend on the type of response it gets from constituents and thinks other council members will approach the vote similarly.

Nafziger has now reached all seven members and found most to be either supportive or at least willing to listen to the advocates' request.

But urban chickens have been a divisive topic in other communities and he expects to encounter at least some opposition from his fellow residents.

'I think what could turn it against us is a large showing of people that are opposed to it," he said.

Still, Nafziger remains cautiously optimistic that the ordinance will have the support to pass.

"The response has been very positive," he said.