For the past 16 months, we have asked hen supporters to write to the Mayor and City Council regarding your support of urban hens in Billings. Now we’re going to ask something slightly different.
Will you consider writing a brief note of appreciation for this vote? The Council/Mayor have had to wade through months of rhetoric, fears, facts, accusations, documentation, phone calls, emails, citizen testimony and more… from both sides of the coop. They came out of that on the side of urban hens. Would you write them to just say a simple “Thank you!” for the work they have done? Council@ci.billings.mt.us and HanelT@ci.billings.mt.us.
Additionally, we were remiss in not expressing our gratitude to the city staff who have indicated that, while they will proceed with the issue whichever way the Council votes, they were supportive of our efforts. The Planning and Animal Control departments in particular have been gracious, fair, and encouraging during this work. On behalf of the Billings Backyard Hen Initiative, THANK YOU! It has been a struggle for all of us to keep this issue above-board and respectful of persons and job functions during this long process; mis-quotes and misunderstandings will happen at times. The only ones who got ugly about this were the anonymous commenters to the Billings Gazette online articles, and it’s easy to be inflammatory when you’re hiding behind anonymity. This issue did NOT denigrate into mud-slinging and bitterness among those of us with our names and faces out in public (citizens, city staff, City Council), and we very much appreciate that fact! Sure makes this citizen wonder how often the problem lies with the public and our lack of respect and consideration when making a request, rather than the “government workers and politicians” that it is so easy for that public to bash. Just food for thought… (“>
This sixteen-month process is drawing to a successful conclusion! Tonight the City Council voted 6-4 in favor of zoning changes to specifically allow urban hens in Billings. They followed up that win by voting 9-1 in support of a new urban hen ordinance allowing up to 6 hens kept in clean, predator-proof housing, an annual permit, and enforced by nuisance ordinances, among other details. The new ordinance is based on that of Missoula, MT and Fort Collins, CO.
There will be a second public reading of this new ordinance, scheduled in September, then 30 days before the ordinance becomes effective.
More information will post to this website as it becomes available, including the cost and process for obtaining the permit.
Speaking on behalf of this citizen’s Initiative group, Way to go, Billings! We are really proud of our City Council and Mayor for working through this issue with us, especially to a successful conclusion. You guys listened to the information and searched through rhetoric and fears to come to a good conclusion. Thumbs up and kudos from the hen-loving community!
To those hen lovers, we ask that you respect the efforts that Dave Klein with Animal Control has gone to in putting the new ordinance together and researching potential issues. While all along there has been a legal contention on whether or not urban hens were or were not allowed in Billings, the fact that they will definitely be allowed now means that we have an extra duty to implement these new, productive pets into our yards in a responsible, careful manner. Keep in mind your neighbors, keep your coops clean and your hens quiet, and be willing to share some of those great eggs!
Tonight is the first public reading of the new ordinance. We know we have said that before, however, we’re pretty sure this time that it hasn’t derailed. The City Council meeting is at 6:30PM on 8/27/12 at Council chambers, 210 N 27th Street downtown.
We need you there to stand in support of this issue! If the initiative fails, we will potentially have up to a year before we can request it again – and during that year we are planning to:
- continue and expand on our email-the-council campaign,
- picket the meetings with our “live” chicken Sunny (it’s a costume, don’t panic),
- continue to show up to Council meetings to express our support of urban hens (even if they won’t be voted on),
- continue the Letters to the Editor campaign,
- and possibly pursue a legal approach in the event chicken owners are targeted by the City.
Despite the way the vote falls tonight, the nonprofit 501(c)3 Magic City Hens group (http://MagicCityHens.wordpress.com) will continue to offer regular urban henkeeping classes and maintain a visual presence in parades, city events, Gardeners and Farmers Markets, etc. That group will also continue Chicken Relocation and Compost Relocation projects, as well as the 2013 Hen Expo. Plans are underway for a City-Wide Coop Tour as well.
Please make it out tonight in support if at all possible; if you cannot attend, please email the Council at Council@ci.billings.mt.us and Mayor at HanelT@ci.billings.mt.us! (“>
This process has been fraught with delays and frustrations, but… we are now set to have the official first reading of the new urban hen ordinance on Monday night, 8/27/12 at 6:30PM at City Council chambers (210 N 27th Street, Billings).
The council can vote this forward or vote it down. We UTTERLY and ABSOLUTELY need you there!! If you care about urban hens in Billings, please make your voice heard! If you absolutely cannot make the meeting, please at the very least send an email to the council at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know you are in support of the urban hen ordinance!
We’ve been working on this issue since April of 11 – sixteen months now – and it’s come down to the wire. The council seems divided – the vote is not yet sure. Can you – will you – help??
Check out our Facebook page: Billings Backyard Hen Initiative, for up-to-the-minute updates. (“>
Here’s an updated schedule!! The city staff is going to present TWO ordinances to the Council… the ordinance that the Council requested (based on Missoula/Fort Collins good ordinances), and the complicated, untried and excessively controlling ordinance that city staff had put together (requiring 20′ easement from property lines, pre-permit inspections despite the fact that Animal Control says they don’t have time to do these, additional 4′ property fencing, etc). Public comment is required to help the Council make the best choice for Billings. (This is where YOU come in, and your emails count too!)
6/5 (Tuesday) 4:30PM Zoning Commission – City Council chambers
6/12 (Tuesday) 6PM Animal Control Board – North Park Center
6/25 (Monday) 6:30PM City Council public comment #1
7/9 (Monday) 6:30PM City Council public comment #2
8/9 Ordinance passed becomes effective for one year, upon which time it will be reviewed and made permanent, hopefully!
We’re reaching the desired results, but we need to keep moving forward: no resting just yet! Please try to make at least one of the upcoming meetings! The two most critical meetings will be the City Council “public comment” times (latter two meetings listed above). Let’s see this thing through!! (“>
Monday May 14 2012, the City Council voted 7-2 to direct staff to proceed with an urban hen ordinance based on the ordinance already proven and currently in use in both Missoula, Montana and Fort Collins, Colorado. This is GREAT NEWS!! A one-year “sunset” clause will be written into the ordinance so we have the equivalent of a year’s pilot program to make sure that the issue works well in Billings and any tweaking that needs to occur may be easily addressed.
A public comment period will occur twice before the ordinance is adopted (July?). Regular upcoming sessions (which begin at 6:30PM) include May 28 and June 11, it is possible that the ordinance will be read at one or both of those sessions. As the agenda becomes available, we will let you know. It is important that people are ready to come in support of the issue, as we are sure that the opposition will do so :). In respect for the time of the City Council, we will ask very few people to speak, but be willing to stand in support. Respect & consideration should always work both ways.
If you can’t make one of the Monday night meetings, please email the council at Council@ci.billings.mt.us and Mayor at HanelT@ci.billings.mt.us and thank them for their willingness to help Billings make this great stride towards being a sustainable, local-foods city!
Requested Urban Chicken Ordinance
(from Missoula, MT and Ft Collins, CO)
The prohibition to keeping chickens in this section does not apply to the keeping of up to 6 female chickens while the animals are kept in such a manner that the following standards are complied with:
- The chickens must be kept on a single-family parcel(s), and chickens may be kept on a parcel(s) under one ownership with more than one dwelling if all residents and the owner consent in writing to allowing the chickens on the property. When chickens are kept on a multi-dwelling parcel(s) the owner of the chickens shall keep a copy of the signed approval document for inspection upon request by animal control personnel.
- The owner must obtain an annual permit from the City Treasurer. The permit shall be $15.
- The chickens shall be provided with a covered, predator-proof chicken house that is thoroughly ventilated, of sufficient size to admit free movement of the chickens, designed to be easily accessed, cleaned and maintained by the owners and be at least 2 square feet per chicken in size.
- No chicken house shall be located closer than 20 feet to any residential structure occupied by someone other than the chicken owner, custodian, or keeper.
- The chickens shall be shut into the chicken house at night, from sunset to sunrise.
- During daylight hours the adult chickens shall have access to the chicken house and, weather permitting, shall have access to an outdoor enclosure on the subject property, adequately fenced to contain the chickens and to prevent access to the chickens by dogs and other predators.
- Stored feed must be kept in a rodent- and predator-proof container
- It is unlawful for the owner, custodian, or keeper of any chicken to allow the animal(s) to be a nuisance to any neighbors, including but not limited to: noxious odors from the animals or their enclosure; and noise of a loud and persistent and habitual nature. Animal Control will determine whether or not a nuisance exists on a case-by-case basis.
- Enforcement Upon receiving a complaint of a possible violation Animal Control will investigate, determine if a violation exists and when appropriate leave a notice of violation and order to take corrective action with the owner, custodian, or keeper and provide them with written notice of the violations that require correction. Animal Control will revisit the owner’s address 10 days or more after the notice of violation is issued. If the owner, custodian, or keeper has failed to comply with the ordinance, Animal Control may issue a citation to the owner, custodian or keeper for failure to comply with any applicable requirement of this section.
April 27, 2012
Billings Association of Realtors:
As a long standing member of the Billings Association of Realtors, I
vehemently disagree with your letter recently submitted to the Billings
City Council urging them to ban the backyard chicken. Throughout our
country people are seeking various ways to have live a healthier, green
lifestyle and to be more self sufficient. The idea of the backyard
chicken is not a radical one and is actually a widely accepted practice
in 93 out of 100 of the largest cities in the country.
Communities throughout Montana, including but not limited to, Missoula,
Bozeman, Helena, Butte, Kalispell and Whitefish have also adopted this
healthy lifestyle choice. Great Falls is currently working on getting
an ordinance passed.
I have spoken several times before the city council in support of this
issue. It brings to the forefront an important opportunity to better
feed our families and also return an individual right to the people as
our countries founders intended. My professional opinion regarding the
effect that having backyard chickens would have on property values is
that it would not have a negative impact and the chicken coop could in
fact become a negotiating tool in a home purchase or sale. The hundreds
of people who are in support of this issue are dedicating their time and
energy to the success of this program. The chicken requires constant
care and nurturing and as it is estimated that less than 2% of the
population will even be interested in pursuing the work required to
properly keep backyard chickens, your odor and drainage concerns become
a non-issue. When our city is filled with backyard barking dogs, your
concern is with a few chickens???
I have checked with the Magic City Hens Association here in Billings and
learned that they have never been contacted by the Billings Association
of Realtors. What information did the association use to arrive at
their decision? Please set aside personal opinions and do what is best
for our community and retract your letter of asking for the Billings
City Council to deny our residents the freedom to become better.
Bill R. Iverson
Town & Country Properties
1311 11th Street West
Billings, MT 59102
cc: Magic City Hens Association
Billings City Council
Montana Association of Realtors
National Association of Realtors