The Carthage City Council’s Public Safety Committee voted on Monday to recommend only minor changes to a city ordinance governing where chickens can be kept in the city limits.
After debate in several meetings and 40 minutes of discussion at Monday’s meeting, the council decided against loosening the rules for keeping laying hens in the city.
The new ordinance, if it passes the full council, will make minor changes to the existing ordinance and clean up language that Carthage Police Chief Greg Dagnan said was contradictory.
He said the ordinance, on the one hand, prohibited people from keeping chickens in pens that are closer than 250 feet to the nearest neighbor’s dwelling, but on the other hand, allowed residents to keep chickens running free in a neighborhood as long as no one complained.
The new ordinance prohibits chickens and other domestic fowl and other domestic animals, excluding dogs and cats, from running at large.
Between eight and 10 residents gave comments for and against allowing people to keep laying hens in the city limits.
Eli Bruton, Carthage, who first raised the topic with the public safety committee a few months ago, said his proposed change would not eliminate restrictions, but would allow poultry to be kept in a “responsible manner.”
“Of course there would need to be restrictions,” Bruton said. “Obviously a large number of poultry wouldn’t make any sense in the environment. That’s why the ordinance bans roosters for the noise issue, limits it to six chickens and the idea that people aren’t going to respect the ordinance, people who are going to violate the ordinance are going to violate the ordinance whether it exists or not and that’s where enforcement comes into play.”
Penny Morehouse Coates, a Carthage resident, said she didn’t trust that people would obey the limits and she feared neighborhoods with chicken coops across the city.
“We have a whole city of people who don’t know what the limits are and we can’t manage what we have,” Coates said. “It’s all well and good that you may say that, but when you get two chickens then someone else is going to get 20 chickens and before you know it we have barnyards in the city.”
Bruton listed a number of cities, including Joplin, Springfield, St. Louis, Kansas City, Overland Park, Kan., and others that allow chickens to be kept, under tight restrictions, in the city limits.
Wynette Quade, and her husband, Tony Quade, said their neighbor had recently installed fences and put cattle, chickens and other livestock on property within the city limits across the alley from their home.
Daniel Comer, Carthage, said he was the one who pushed for the 250-foot limit back in 2000 because of health problems he blamed on chickens being raised by a neighbor.
“They were nice and cute, my neighbor had chickens running around, roosters crowing all time of day or night,” Comer said. “But then it got to be a nuisance and he started killing the chickens and take the leftover droppings and burn them in the back yard. I ended up with histoplasmosis, it’s a fungus that grows on your lungs and caused by the droppings of the chickens. I went through that for a while and I finally got the city council to change the distance from 25 feet to 250 feet so they wouldn’t have chickens in town anymore.”
Committee member Steve Liebbrand said he worried about more city ordinances taking away more freedoms from residents.
Carthage City Administrator Tom Short said he was concerned about paying to enforce new rules that allowed more chickens.
“Some of these cities we’re talking about, in some cases, they have departments,” Short said. “We have one employee who will be doing this, plus the cats, plus the dogs, plus everything else. So it may wind up having to cost more too.”
The Carthage City Council will vote twice on the proposed changes after City Attorney Nate Dally makes minor adjustments suggested by the committee.