VACAVILLE — Direct the city staff to develop a $15,000 pilot program for residents to keep chickens in backyards. That’s the recommendation of the Vacaville city staff, which would then present an outline of the pilot program for City Council consideration.
The council takes up the recommendation at its meeting Tuesday.
Backyard chicken-keeping has become more popular in recent years, Barton Brierley, community development director, said in his report to the council. Councilwoman Dilenna Harris asked at a July 15 meeting for a discussion about city regulations on keeping chickens.
Vacaville resident Ravi Rangi had asked that the city amend zoning to allow poultry raising in all residential zones, according to city staff.
The code now allows chicken-keeping only in the zoning districts of residential estate, rural residential, agricultural and hillside agriculture – and only on lots greater than 1 acre. A number of residents keep chickens despite the city’s restrictions, Brierley said in the report.
He said backyard chicken-keeping was prevalent in cities until the mid-20th century. The practice helped sustain people during two world wars and the Depression, he said. As suburban lifestyles became more popular, many cities began regulating the practice to address concerns that include noise, odors and sanitation.
Vacaville restricted backyard chickens in 1960.
Code enforcement has found that enforcing the prohibitions against chicken-keeping has been upsetting for some who have had to relinquish their chickens, Brierley added. Residents who own the chickens often have a strong emotional attachment to their birds, he said.
The animals’ recent renewed popularity is due to benefits that include fresh, organic eggs and that chickens control certain pests, said the city community development director. Of the 11 cities closest to Vacaville, 10 allow home chicken-keeping, Brierley noted.
Erin Beavers, director of community development for Fairfield, said Monday that the city limits residents to three chickens because of the potential to create a nuisance in large numbers.
The Vacaville Backyard Hen Association has prepared a recommended ordinance that would allow up to eight hens on any size lot in residential low-density zones and up to three hens on any size lot in low- to medium-density zones, Brierley said.
A Facebook posting for the backyard hen association states 43 people are going to Tuesday’s council meeting about the matter.
“They’re very interested,” Brierley said Monday about the group.
The proposed pilot program could allow limited test sites in different areas, he said, and Vacaville could contract with a University of California, Davis, consultant to monitor the sites.
Vacaville City Council members meet at 7 p.m. in the chamber at 650 Merchant St.
Reach Ryan McCarthy at 427-6935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.