Isle of Wight joins the chicken debate

Published 2:03 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2016

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Isle of Wight County staffers are clucking over the idea of allowing backyard chickens in some residential areas.

The question is up for discussion Thursday before the Board of Supervisors.

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The meeting begins at 5 p.m. at the Isle of Wight County Courthouse complex.

Isle of Wight County interim Director of Planning and Zoning Richard Rudnicki provided a lengthy memo on the potential concerns with keeping chickens, such as predators, dogs, roosters, mess and the problem of residents ultimately getting bored with having chickens and what that could mean for county services. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Then there was a concern about dogs killing chickens and the complications — that is, a state law stating that a chicken-killing dog can itself be killed in retaliation. Worse, the owner of a chicken killed by a dog may then shoot the dog and get cited for discharging a firearm in a subdivision, according to a staff report.

County staff recommended against chickens in residential areas, but if the Board wanted to allow it, suggested several restrictions, such as limiting the number of chickens, no roosters allowed, all coops be in the back of the house and no selling eggs from the residence. Staff also suggested that residents must obtain a zoning permit before starting a flock.

Currently, chickens are only allowed in areas zoned rural agricultural conservation. If Isle of Wight were to forge ahead with allowing chickens, staff recommended they be allowed in the following zoning districts — neighborhood conservation, suburban estate and suburban residential.

Staff also provided a list of neighboring localities that permit chickens in residential areas, with varying restrictions, including the cities of Newport News, Hampton, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Poquoson and Virginia Beach, and the counties of James City, York and Gloucester.

The town of Windsor recently allowed for chickens on lots of five acres or larger, but chickens are not allowed in the town of Smithfield. The last time the issue came up Smithfield officials decided there were not enough residents wanting to keep chickens to warrant changing the ordinance.

Coincidently, two farm-related stores located within Smithfield town limits often allow Saturday morning chicken swaps in their parking lots and sell a wide variety of chicken-related feed and equipment.  {/mprestriction}