Backyard chickens still a possibility in Oak Ridge

Backyard chickens still a possibility in Oak Ridge


6 News Anchor/Reporter

OAK RIDGE (WATE) - The feathers flew at the Oak Ridge Municipal Planning Commission Thursday night over backyard chickens.

Some people want to be allowed to raise them in their neighborhoods inside the city limits. It's a growing trend in urban areas.

An Oak Ridge realtor is capitalizing on the chicken controversy, advertising a free coop with every house sold, but the issue is more serious for some.

"In five years, I might come to you all and say I'd just like to have one hog. They don't make a lot of noise. I'll clean-up the mess," says opponent Aaron Wells. "You're opening up the door."

"We're not talking about roosters," says proponent John Goodlaxson. "Your laying hens make less noise than any type of barking dog."

Goodlaxson is advocating only a few chickens be allowed per household.

That's what his family had until a dog ate one. Goodlaxson called animal control, got cited for his coup and the debate started. 

"Human beings in our urban societies have lost a lot of connectivity with nature and food production in general," Goodlaxson says.

But that doesn't convince opponents. "They need to stay in rural areas. We're trying to progress as a city and not digress into a rural area," Wells says.

Planning Commissioner Chuck Agle has yard chickens of his own. "We basically got three chickens as Easter chicks several years ago and they are pets."

Agle was told last year by a visiting animal control officer that he was breaking the city ordinance against farm animals in his residential district.

"We chose not to get rid of them," Agle says. "If we had complaints about the chickens, they would disappear overnight."

He and one other planning commissioner who voted in support of changing the ordinance were outnumbered, but this isn't the end of the line.

"There are city council members who are interested in pursuing it more, so it's not over," Goodlaxson says.

Oak Ridge officials have studied chicken ordinances in Asheville, Charlotte and Signal Mountain as examples.

They say Knoxville is also debating the issue.

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