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3/19/2014 12:44:00 PM
Legislation would disallow city bans on chickens
SB 1151 would overrule existing or future city ordinances that prohibit poultry outright
SB 1151 would overrule existing or future city ordinances that prohibit poultry outright

Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- Calling it an issue of "economic freedom," a House panel voted Tuesday to force cities to allow residents to have poultry, a move one foe said means the state will "shove it down the throats" of nearby residents who don't want them.

SB 1151 would overrule existing or future city ordinances that prohibit poultry outright or impose most other restrictions on single-family lots.

Gone would be how large a lot is necessary to raise not only chickens but also geese and turkeys. And cities would not be able to tell someone how far a coop must be kept from a neighbor's property.

That would leave cities only an ability to set a cap on the number of fowl and a ban on roosters and other males.

Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, who said he raised chickens on a 10-acre farm when he lived in New Jersey, said there will be issues of noise and odor.

"This is not just about the right of people to have hens," he said.

"This is about the right of their neighbors to enjoy the suburban or urban lifestyle which they've chosen," Kavanagh continued. "This is not the Beverly Hillbillies."

Rep. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, who was a former city councilman, said there's no reason for legislators to impose their will over what is decided locally by each community.

He said some public safety issues should be decided at a state level. For example, he cited laws which prohibit bars within a certain distance from public schools.

"Something like this, I think it's wrong to shove it down their throats and say, 'You cannot do this,'" he said.

Many Arizona cities have restrictions of some form.

In general they keep fowl sufficiently far from any fence line to keep them from becoming a nuisance to neighbors. That sometimes means residents of smaller lots do not get to have birds at all.

Sen. David Farnsworth, R-Mesa, sponsor of the legislation, said that's a shame.

He said there are people with allergies who cannot use most store-bought eggs because of what commercially raised chickens are fed. Farnsworth also said it would benefit poor people, especially those who may not want to accept food stamps.

But Farnsworth, raised on a farm, said he had the "privilege" of going out to the henhouse when his mother needed eggs to bake a cake. Sometimes there were none.

"So I would wait until I heard the friendly cackle of the eggs and stick my hand under the hen," he said. "And there was that nice warm egg."

Rep. Demion Clinco, D-Tucson, said the legislation supports "a new model of urban farming and urban sustainability.'

And Rep. Warren Petersen, R-Gilbert, said the legislation "is about a lot more than chickens."

"The United States has now fallen out of the Top 10 in the world for economic freedom," he said. "And one of the biggest reasons is for the loss of property rights."

But Borrelli said none of that provides a reason to overrule decisions made by locally elected council members.

"Every community is unique," he said. "They know their area better than we do here."

The 5-3 vote by the House Government Committee sends the measure, which already has been approved by the Senate, to the full House.

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Reader Comments

Posted: Thursday, March 27, 2014
Article comment by: Chicken Friendly

How is it "shoving it down their throats" to allow limited chickens and not the same thing to forbid chickens? Forbidding chickens has been shoved down the throats of people who live in cities (like Chandler) that disallow chickens from most homes. Noise, smell? Do your neighbors have dogs? The noise and smell from most dog-containing yards is worse that what you'll get from a few chickens. And chickens eat bugs, like scorpions, eliminating the need for so many poisonous chemicals. Cities can still limit the number of chickens with this bill, and can forbid roosters. HOAs can still forbid chickens. I can't for the life of me see anything wrong with this bill.

Posted: Thursday, March 20, 2014
Article comment by: Good Call Arizona

The "chicken" fight that happened not so long ago in the local communities about these animals was a waste of time. I'm Glad now that the state will step in and recognize that some people want to have a garden, chickens on their property that they paid for and payed taxes on.

I had a run in with the local county planning and zoning and was forced to get rid of half of my chickens. I had 13 and I lived on a private road on an acre in the county (which is not maintained by the county, but needs to be!). By the way, you can only have 8 hens and no roosters. This dropped my egg production down to one doz. every other week.
After reading the ordinance and finding that the regulations do not apply to 4H and FFA members and the fact my son is in FFA, I added to the flock and our egg production was back to 4 doz a week, this saved his FFA project. The county can tell me what I can and can not have on my property, but refuse to maintain a county road used by many that live in the area. The way I see it if the county does not want to claim the road, then they can't tell me what I can have in my yard. Thank you AZ legislatures for clarifying my property rights and not wasting peoples time over a "fowl" law.

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