Help for yard hens in Bakersfield is rising as advocates search to legalize information inside metropolis limits

Michelle Harp looks back fondly on raising chickens in the back yard of her home in southwest Bakersfield.

As a patient with multiple sclerosis, she said she bought five chickens for the nutritious eggs about five years ago, but she never thought how fun it would be to raise the birds about the day after they were born.

“I would go inside at dusk to accommodate everyone,” she said, two of whom were named after Lucy Ricardo and Ethel Mertz from the 1950s television show “I Love Lucy”. “They would be in different places in the stable. I would stretch out my arm. I knew the pecking order and would scan them one by one. “

She said many of her neighbors were in favor of her new hobby, also because she was handing eggs to her friends. But a neighbor said he had a fly problem and blamed Harp’s chickens. He called Code Enforcement.

“The city sent me a letter and so I called my friend who lives in Rosedale with tears,” said Harp. “He said I always have room for chickens, you know that.”

Although Harp had to give up her chickens, she kept the coop in her back yard in the hopes that one day Bakersfield could legalize urban chickens.

Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of Bakersfield residents, that dream could soon become a reality.

Bakersfield City Council recently instructed staff to draft an urban chick ordinance that would allow chickens in many parts of the city. If passed, urban chickens could be a common sight in the neighborhoods, a prospect that terrifies some residents as it excites others.

The issue appears to be supported by several members of the city council, who have overruled a less enthusiastic report from the city’s development services bureau in an attempt to move the regulation forward.

“I just think it’s a great family activity. They produce eggs for the family to eat; they are good pets. They’re less of a bother to me than what dogs can be, ”Councilor Bob Smith said in a telephone interview. “The cities we have contacted – and some of the proponents have made more contact – say they are not really a big problem.”

Currently, chickens are only allowed in a limited number of zones within Bakersfield. If the city passes an ordinance legalizing chickens in R1 zones, many residential areas in Bakersfield could have chicken coops.

Although the exact rules have not yet been established, efforts to legalize urban chickens in Bakersfield reflect a similar attempt in 2012 that ultimately failed.

This time around, however, the proponents of chickens say they are more organized and better positioned to get the problem across the finish line.

“Backyard hens have no limits,” said MT Merickel, director at Stockdale Elementary, who runs a website promoting the legalization of chickens in Bakersfield. “It’s across our diverse community. There is no isolated population that wants that. Everyone who is for it is everywhere. “

He said he has held weekly committee meetings with supporters devoted to allowing chickens in Bakersfield.

However, the effort could be stopped by those who want things to stay as they are.

A handful of opponents attended the workshop on Wednesday, arguing against the legalization of backyard hens, highlighting the potential for noise, increased rodents and insects. Even the city staff seemed to be against the idea.

“Urban chickens have the potential for additional costs and burdens on the code enforcement department, where this resource could be better utilized elsewhere,” wrote Director Christopher Boyle in a report to the city council.

He admitted that a fee-based system could help alleviate the potential problems, but withheld assistance.

“Employees believe that the best way to safeguard the interests of the city is to protect the peace, tranquility and quality of life that are paramount to single-family homes, and note that there are currently regulations governing the keeping of chickens in of the city. ” he wrote.

Those looking to raise chickens counter their opponents’ claims by saying that the birds actually reduce insect infestation and are relatively clean. The noise problem is solved by not allowing taps in the city. The male birds are responsible for the dawn, not the female chickens.

The issue is currently on the Legislative and Process Committee of the City Council, which will make the first leap into regulation. The full council expects the finalized regulation to be available relatively soon.

Urban chickens are confident that the second time around will be the appeal, and they say raising chickens is a perfect fit for Bakersfield culture.

“We’re a city that is about freedom rather than what you would call the great nanny state of California,” said supporter Bruce Bagwell. “I would describe it as a living city and let it live. I think that goes with it. “

You can reach us on Saturday morning at 661-395-7415. You can also follow him on Twitter @smorgenTBC.

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