The Upper Dublin Planning Commission isn't chicken when it comes to… well, chickens.
At last week's commission meeting, members held a discussion on allowing township residents to keep chickens, given certain requirements, in their backyards. The conversation began after residents visited the commission in previous months to request the right to keep chickens as pets and for fresh eggs, and it appears likely that the commission will consider an ordinance come their March 20th meeting.
According to chair Wes Wolf, commission members agreed that the following requirements were fitting:
- A maximum of six chickens per lot less than 5 acres
- A minimum lot area of 1/2 acre
- A minimum 25-foot property line setback for pens and coops
- A minimum coop size of 3 sq. ft. per chicken
- A minimum pen area of 10 sq. ft. per chicken
- Various requirements for disposal of waste and composting
Current township zoning code requires five acres of land to raise livestock, including chickens.
Code Enforcement Director Rick Barton said that three homeowners have applied to the Zoning Hearing Board for exceptions in recent years, all of which were granted. A home on the 400 block of Bellaire Avenue was granted permission to keep seven chickens on a 1.38-acre lot, a home on the 300 block of Camp Hill Road to keep five chickens on .6 acres, and a home on Lindenwold Terrace to keep six chickens on .59 acres.
None of the exceptions allowed for roosters. In addition, a home on the 600 block of Susquehanna Road was cited in February 2010 for keeping 17 chicken and 12 ducks on 1.61-acre lot.
A report prepared by Barton also examined nearby municipalities and their bird laws. In Abington and Upper Gwynedd, the keeping of livestock is limited to lots of at least three acres. In Whitemarsh township, there are no limitations on the number of chickens, but each must be provided appropriate space.
The report also cited a study from Pennsylvania State University that stated most municipalities allow for 4-6 chickens. However, Barton wrote that the study's requirements for coop size, based on a ratio with the weight of each chicken, would probably not make it into the township's proposed ordiance.
"The area standards for indoor quarters and outdoor fenced areas are based on the body weight of the chickens," Barton wrote. "It is not a practical standard for enforcement."
A model ordinance is being prepared by township employees and will likely appear before the Planning Commission on March 20th. If passed, it will then appear before the Board of Commissioners for adoption.