Tampa to allow chickens as domesticated animals?

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One Council member who sounded decidedly unenthusiastic about allowing chickens to be declared domestic pets was Frank Reddick, who called it "one of the most ridiculous things I've ever heard." Reddick went on to describe his own personal experience with a wayward chicken, ending the somewhat hilarious anecdote by saying that the only positive thing to evolve out of it was that he lost five pounds walking around. "I don't think it's good for people to have chickens in their back yard," he declared.

Pete Johnson, a regular public speaker at most Council meetings, also didn't support the idea, calling it a public health situation. He said there could be a concern about chickens mating with roosters, and that it would be absurd to have Tampa police enforce a new law.

But there were more folks who support allowing the citizenry to have chickens as pets.

Animal rights attorney Mina Morgan says she has represented pet chickens (and their owners, we assume) in the courtroom. She called Tampa's current ordinance "antiquated" and said nuisance laws already on the books for dogs and cats could easily be applied to chickens. She said she had a case where her client lost a chicken to a "delusional" neighbor. "Just because one neighbor has a mental problem, that should not deprive people of their pets," she said.

Amanda Matthews called domestic chickens entertaining and relatively inexpensive to keep and care for. She also declared them a source of more nutritious and "humanely produced eggs."

South Tampa resident Kim Atkinson came to the meeting with her daughter Emily. Although neither mother nor daughter spoke at the hearing, Kim Atkinson told CL after the meeting that her daughter has wanted a chicken for years, but Kim has always turned her down because of the city's ordinance.

Twelve-year-old Emily said if she had a chicken it would help teach her responsibility. She has heard they make great pets.

"I don't think that just because they relax the ordinance, I don't think everybody's going to run out and get chickens," Kim Atkinson said.

The Council will workshop the issue on Thursday, April 26.

click to enlarge Frank Reddick - Ybor Chickens, photographed by Todd Bates
Ybor Chickens, photographed by Todd Bates
Frank Reddick

The Tampa City Council on Thursday voted on Thursday to conduct a workshop next month on revisiting and possibly changing the 21-year-old code that regulates chickens, which are quite prevalent in various parts of the city.

As Zoning Administrator Catherine Coyle told the Council, there is a provision in the city's current code that addresses farm animals. That law contains specific requirements that essentially make it illegal for anyone to raise a chicken (or horse or pig) at a distance of 200 feet or less from another residence.

But he said there is an urban farming movement across the country that encourages raising such animals. "One of the big questions is whether to coop the chickens or allow them to run free," she said, with some communities favoring the cooped-up method.

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