Backyard Chickens Coming Soon To Your Neighborhood?

The Planning Commission and the Houghton Community Council are considering staff recommendations to make Zoning Code and Municipal Code amendments including one in particular which has caught the eye of several folks in town, an expansion of residential zones in which chickens are allowed.

The staff memo also discusses the maximum number of backyard chickens and the standards for their keeping (setbacks, prohibition on roosters, etc). The Houghton Community Council discusses the issue On February 27 and the Planning Commission is scheduled to do so on March 8. The public is encouraged to provide input.

Below is the text of relevant section on the staff memo:

  1. Miscellaneous Regulations Animals in Residential Zones, Small Domestic Animals, Chickens Chapter 115 Section 115.20.4Purpose: The amendments are proposed to expand the residential zones in which chickens are allowed, determine the maximum number of chickens, and the standards for their keeping (setbacks, prohibition on roosters, etc).

Background: Last year the Planning Commission directed staff to amend the rules regarding backyard chickens after they received a letter expressing their support for doing so. The letter is Attachment 13 to the memorandum.

KZC Section 115.20.4 establishes regulations that govern the keeping of animals in any zone where a dwelling unit is permitted. Chickens and other fowl are regulated as small domestic animals. The regulations address:

  • The maximum number of fowl and the circumstances under which this number may be reduced based upon proximity to other dwelling units, compatibility with surrounding uses, lot size and isolation, and noise impacts.
  • The minimum lot size,
  • The minimum setbacks for pens,
  • Structure/pen cleanliness,
  • The minimum lot size for keeping rosters.The City adopted the preexisting County regulations with annexation. In the annexation RSA zones (JFK area), there is no minimum lot size for chickens, but if the lot is less than 35,000 sq. ft. roosters are prohibited and a maximum of 3 chickens are allowed.In preannexation Kirkland, in order to keep chickens, a lot must be at least 35,000 square feet and there is a limit of 20 chickens and 1 per each additional 500 sq. ft. Roosters are allowed.

    As a result of the backyard food movement, there is increased interest in allowing chickens on residential lots with fewer restrictions. The cities of Seattle and Redmond have adopted regulations to address the keeping of chickens in residential areas. Along with reviewing those existing programs, staff is working with Seattle Tilth, and interested citizens to develop the draft regulations.

    The State Health Department and Department of Agriculture regulate the sale of eggs and have determined that residentially raised chickens are exempt from their regulations. Municipalities are silent regarding the sale of eggs, and if there is an issue it is investigated as a complaint.

    The following links contain information pertaining to chickens: Backyard Chickens in Shoreline PDF

At the meeting, consider the following topics:

  • Should there be a minimum lot size for keeping chickens?(Currently none in JFK, and 35,000 sq. ft. in the rest of Kirkland)
  • Should lot size determine the number of chickens allowed? (Currently in the annexed JFK neighborhoods there is no limit in any zone, in the rest of Kirkland there is a limit of 20 and 1 per each additional 500 sq. ft on lots of at least 35,000 sq. ft.)
  • Should roosters be allowed? (Currently they are only allowed in entire City on lots greater than 35,000 sq. ft.)
  • Should there be an approval process? (Currently none)Staff Recommendation: Amend Section 115.20.4 to provide the same rules throughout Kirkland allowing chickens on various sized residential lots. Standards would be prepared to address such issues as number of chickens, the location of pens and setbacks, and the keeping of roosters. Generally a formal approval process should not be required. 

Photo courtesy of Flickr user wattpublishing