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Overland Park let people keep chickens in their backyards, and it was a clucking success

A backyard chicken hangs out in a portable coop in Silver Spring, Md., a close-in suburb of Washington, D.C. Backyard birds have become popular in urban and suburban areas, but a new CDC report documents a record high number of salmonella infections linked to these domestic flocks.
Charles Dharapak
In the nearly 15 months since Overland Park allowed chickens to be kept on smaller properties, city animal control officials say they have received just four complaints, none of which have been related to permitted chickens allowed under the pilot program.

City councilmembers now will consider whether to make the chicken rules permanent and whether to reduce or drop the minimum land requirement. Overland Park's animal control department noted there have been no documented complaints on properties with chicken permits since the pilot began in March 2022.

A two-year test program that allows Overland Park residents with at least a quarter acre of land to keep chickens has so far been a success, according to the city department that oversees it.

As the program approaches its ending date December 31, the city animal control department noted there have been no documented complaints on properties with chicken permits since the pilot began in March 2022.

City councilmembers now will begin to consider whether to make the chicken rules permanent, as some members of the council’s Community Development Committee proposed at a meeting Wednesday.

They also discussed reducing the quarter-acre minimum requirement or even dropping it altogether.

Previous process was cumbersome for homeowners

The city council voted to change the rules on chicken-keeping last year because of the amount of staff time and frustration that went into moving them through the city planning commission.

The ordinance had allowed chickens by right — that is, without the need for special zoning permits or review — on property over three acres.

Those with smaller lots had to get a special permit through the planning commission and then the city council, where most were turned down.

The rules worked against people in the city’s northern half, where lots are generally smaller but interest was high in raising chickens as a hobby.

The test program took the permit out of the planning commission purview and placed it under animal control officers who inspect the coops and setbacks.

Most of the chicken permits are north of I-435

Since the pilot program began, chicken ownership has proved popular for those smaller lots, said city planner Colin Victory.

The city approved 31 of its 57 permit requests.

Of those approved, 22 were for lots from a quarter to a half acre. All of the six denials were because the property didn’t meet the minimum size.

Only four of the approved permits were south of Interstate 435.

There have been only four complaints

Overland Park has received only four substantiated chicken-related complaints, but most of those were related to un-permitted chickens and not a result of the pilot, Victory said.

Three were on property with no chicken permit and one was for a rooster on an annexed acreage where chickens were allowed by right.

There have been some calls and letters requesting that the lot size requirements be reduced, and the animal control department officials said as small as a 0.2-acre minimum would be acceptable.

Anything lower could cause problems with duplexes, officials said.

Committee members appeared in favor of making it permanent

The four committee members at the meeting Wednesday spoke favorably about making the pilot permanent, but some had qualms about eliminating all minimum size requirements without another test for the smaller properties.

Chairman Logan Heley said he’d be in favor of removing the minimum but suggested another test after making the existing quarter-acre minimum permanent.

Councilmember Fred Spears said removing the minimum could cause a problem with maintaining correct setbacks, but he could live with the 0.2-acre minimum.

“Quite frankly I was very pleased and surprised by how many applied, how many were approved and the dearth of complaints that I thought we might have,” he said.

No vote was required Wednesday, but the committee’s comments will be relayed to the Public Safety committee, which will make its own recommendation to the full city council.

Roxie Hammill is a freelance journalist in Kansas City. Contact her at roxieham@gmail.com.
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