By Howard Fischer
PHOENIX -- Got chickens?
Wish you did?
State lawmakers are trying to make sure you have that opportunity.
Legislation awaiting a House vote would override most local ordinances that now keep poultry out of many residential areas. In its place would be a state law saying that residents can have chickens -- up to nine -- as long as they comply with certain conditions.
The measure is being pushed by Rep. Kevin Payne, R-Peoria, who apparently has become endeared to the fowl.
"Chickens are loving birds,'' he told members of the House Committee on Land, Agriculture and Rural Affairs earlier this week. Payne said it's like having a pet.
"You can hold them,'' he said. "They purr. They help soothe people.''
Payne also said they "love to have company,'' which is why his HB 2483 seeks to allow more than just a lone chicken.
And then there's the practical side.
"They produce eggs, the golden nuggets that come out,'' he said.
Only thing is, not every community sees things the same way. And even in cities and counties that allow residents to have the birds, the rules are not uniform. This would change all that.
In essence, the proposal said if you live in a single-family detached home, you can have chickens.
Still, there would be rules.
First off, those often-noisy roosters are still poultry-non-grata.
Letting them roam the yard on a lot of less than half an acre would also be off limits.
Instead, they would have to be kept in an enclosure at the side or rear of the property at least 15 feet from a neighbor. And the pens could be no larger than 200 feet.
Then there would be requirements to maintain the pens and either pick up or compost the manure at least twice a week, and do it in a way to prevent insects.
There also are requirements to have adequate overflow drainage for water sources and that food be stored in insect-proof and rodent-proof containers.
Glendale resident Shelly Honn urged lawmakers to approve the measure after she was forced to get rid of "the girls'' in her yard. And she said efforts to get the city to change its ordinance proved unsuccessful.
Honn also told lawmakers they need to consider the issue in light of other events, ranging from fires at egg ranches to other disasters.
That would include incidents of bird flu which have required flocks to be destroyed. And that, in turn, has been one of the things that has driven up the price of eggs.
"Arizonans need some sort of food security,'' Honn said.
"Some want to live sustainably,'' she continued. "A small flock of chickens would go a long way with both of these.''
Not everyone was enthusiastic.
Marshall Pimentel, lobbyist for the League of Arizona Cities and Towns said his organization is not opposed in concept. But he would like changes, like limiting chicken ownership to lots of more than a half acre, with a six-bird cap.Click here to see more...