Chicken owners may face new rules

MARYSVILLE — Better count your chickens.

Homeowners in Marysville may be limited to keeping a maximum of 12 chickens if their property is smaller than an acre. It’s one of several limits the city is considering Monday for backyard chickens.

Marysville always has allowed people to keep chickens on their property. With that, city officials have gotten questions, especially since chicken-keeping is getting more popular.

“I think having your own eggs and chickens is kind of a growing trend,” city administrator Gloria Hirashima said. “This seems to be something a lot of different communities are working on.”

Right now, the only guidelines for chickens are that the pens and coops must be clean and set back 100 feet from the property lines. And there is no limit on how many chickens can be raised at a residence. The Marysville City Council could decide to add new requirements for chickens at a meeting 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 1049 State Ave.

Hirashima said the city has received more calls about chickens over the past couple of years. Some people wanted the setback to be shorter so that more property owners could keep chickens. When the idea came before the city’s planning commission in March, commissioners felt there should be as few regulations as possible around the topic, Hirashima said.

A recommendation given to the council by the planning commission would set a maximum of 12 chickens kept on residential lots that are less than an acre. Shelters and other enclosures for chickens would need to remain in the back yard, be maintained in good condition and free of bad odors, and be located a minimum of 15 feet from property lines. Roosters would be prohibited on lots that are less than an acre.

Chickens can roam freely in back yards as long as there are fences to contain them. Chickens infected with diseases that are harmful to people must be removed. All waste must be kept in tightly covered fly-proof receptacles and disposed of at least once each week in a manner approved by an animal control officer.

The city of Lynnwood adopted an ordinance in March that had some similar rules for chicken keeping. The similarities include restricting chickens to back yards, prohibiting roosters and maintaining a 15-foot setback of coops and pens from neighboring property. Lynnwood allows up to five chickens on single-family properties.

City staff looked over regulations in other cities and found that the maximum number of chickens allowed on residential properties typically ranged between three and 12, Hirashima said.

People who want to keep chickens in their back yards do not need a license, but the rules should give the city the ability to investigate any complaints, Hirashima said. The new rules will let people who couldn’t own chickens because of the setback requirements have them, and will help to bring others into compliance, she added.

“It’s more permissive and should allow more people to legally have chickens in the city, but the Planning Commission and City Council didn’t think that changing the rules would result in a huge influx of chickens,” Hirashima said.

Amy Daybert: 425-339-3491; adaybert@heraldnet.com.

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