City Zoning Commission Hearing Fell on Deaf Ears

Misinformation was King at the City Zoning Commission meeting tonight. After eleven citizens stood up and explained why we wanted urban hens, followed by two in opposition, the Zoning commission voted against pursuing text amendments to allow our request.


We did not get a chance to speak in rebuttal or answer questions about the concerns; it was apparent that childhood memories of living on a farm with 500 chickens brought their own weight to the meeting, as Zoning members expressed their thoughts. Thus, while some of us could relate to the farm chicken memories, we were unable to express the true facts in the urban hen issue.


It is remarkable to us that much larger cities (as well as much smaller municipalities) than Billings itself have implemented this sustainable-lifestyle function into their ordinances and structure without experiencing any of the problems, difficulties, or concerns that the two gentlemen speaking, and the Zoning members themselves, brought up. New York City,Dallas,Los Angeles,San Francisco,Chicago,Albuquerque,Seattle,Portland,Austin,Phoenix,Tampa,Atlanta,Pittsburgh,El Paso,Fort Worth,Nashville, and many, many more allow backyard hens – close to 70% of large cities nationwide. But this isn’t even just inAmerica– many Canadian cities as well as those inEuropeare likewise implementing responsible ordinances regarding this issue. If this was the problem that the Zoning commission worried about, would it have ever continued in these cities?


The big concerns mentioned were smell, the possibility of rabid skunks, swarming mice, and property values dropping. We, as a group, find it perplexing that the Zoning Commission would assume that we would willingly and knowingly risk our own pleasant and landscaped backyards, the health of ourselves and of our families, and our property values for the sake of making a point. Really??


It takes between 12-15 backyard hens to equal, in one day, the amount of fecal matter produced by one small, 40# dog. Dog ownership is not regulated beyond the requiring of a license, and there is as little likelihood that every neighborhood dog inBillingsis licensed annually as there is that those dogs are thoroughly cleaned up after. As a point of logic, if a person was going to eat something that was produced in a portion of their backyard, would they or would they not be as certain as humanly possible that the food product was clean and safe?

There have been ZERO documented cases of property values diminishing in any way by the allowance of responsible backyard hen-keeping, in any city in the United States. In fact, it is becoming such a widespread sustainability feature that some realtors and home sellers are offering free chicken coops with a lot purchase! See more about this at – Done the way we are suggesting to the city (as other cities have implemented), urban hens actually increase property values in a town, rather than decrease it.

Regarding drawing skunks – Yes, skunks like chickens. And dogs and cats left outside at night. In fact, human household garbage, pet food left out in a bowl, bird feeders, gardens, fish ponds can all attract predators, including skunks. However, a predator-proof coop is also a requirement of the code being requested. And remember, chickens will eat mice, baby rats, and snakes… some of the other things that draw predators.

Obviously there is more work to be done to address these concerns. We are asking the City of Billingsto give us a chance to show them what we’re talking about… it’s not your Granddad’s chicken farm. It’s up to 6 hens in a clean and tidy coop with a small footprint, with dramatic benefits such as up to 9 pounds a month of residual-food products (leftovers turning in the fridge, pizza crust, veggie peels and scraps, garden waste) that would normally be thrown away into our Billings landfill turning, instead, to a compostable product that is of vast benefit to the many local gardens.

We can work together to make this work for Billings! The campaign goes on.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Susan on June 8, 2011 at 11:45 am

    Sounds very negative. What next?


  2. I am so sorry you guys! We were cheering for you from Miles City, but don’t give up! We heard the exact same arguments here–including the rabid skunks (of which there is no proof to support that and why “rabid” skunks?)! Our ordinance narrowly passed the Public Safety Cmte and the Chairmen said he only voted for it so the whole council could hear it but he promised he wouldn’t vote for it then. We also had only 2 naysayers speak while several of us spoke in favor and when they called the vote, everyone was shocked that it passed 4-3! The Public Safety Chair voted against it and he looked stunned when it passed. He had originally promised me they would never allow up to 6 hens in town! It will go back to cmte to tighten up the regulations. I am recommending a 20 ft space between a coop and a neighbor’s home but would go up to 40 if they are really going against it. Every other argument they had is already covered in the new Animal Control Ordinance–smell, cleanliness, at large, abuse and even fines and punishment. I hope they will go with that! Let me know if I can help and hang in there!


  3. Posted by cynthia on June 9, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Wow! Can’t believe that outcome! How ignorant our local government must seem to all the “big” city folks that we pity for their “citified” life–if they can get it figured out, why can’t we? We take such pride in living a healthier life, disdaining all that is synthetic, and being SELF-RELIANT. I have to ask “what the heck? Who are these people representing?” Not me, obviously. Guess I need to take names on who NOT to vote for in the coming election. And, does the term “majority rules” mean anything to the council?


  4. We will be scheduling another task force meeting (ie, any of you who are interested!) for next week – more details to follow. We’re working on our campaign. We still need city council members emailed and/or called in support of urban hens in Billings! More information will be forthcoming as we work out details!


  5. Posted by Judy on June 10, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    Just found your blog .. sorry to hear of your not favourable meeting. We are ‘just’ in the starting phases of this process up here in Duncan, Vancouver Island Canada. But at our first community meeting, all council members were there and supportive. Just have to convince a few community naysayers. I will be checking back on your progress. Hang in there!


    • Thanks, Judy! I think that if we can explain and show how this really does benefit everyone – from the city to the taxpayers, let alone the hen-keepers, all will be well.

      More work to be done!

      Good luck up there in Duncan!! TJ


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