Chicken ordinance ruffles feathers in South Whitley

Local News

SOUTH WHITLEY, Ind. (WANE) — In the last few years, raising chickens in urban areas has become more popular. According to farming experts, with the ongoing pandemic, the trend is expected to last for the foreseeable future.

Residents of South Whitley are hoping to jump on the chicken owning bandwaggon.

“They are just a really nice animal to keep,” says South Whitley resident Dove Stasko. “It’d be really easy to have chicken in town and it’d be really great for families who want to know where their food comes from.”

In the rural town of South Whitley, the idea of allowing residents living within town limits to own and house chickens was brought up at a council meeting in August. Since then residents have started campaigning to bring the two legged birds into their neighborhoods.

Matthew Holmes grew up in the South Whitley and is now raising is family within city limits. Holmes and his wife Ceira have two children and several hens that live on a farm about 30 minutes away. Now they’re hoping the city will allow them to place their hens in their backyard.

“We want the kids to be able to see how chickens grow and how the eggs are produce,” says Matthew Holmes. “We want to teach them responsibility.”

“Being able to check on them everyday and be there if something goes wrong would be nice,” says Ceira Holmes. “We can make sure they are healthy and not have to drive as far.”

“They can also be in 4-H,” says Matthew Holmes. “If you live in the city you can’t do 4-H unless you are housing and paying rent to store your animals.”

Matthew Holmes is one of the residents spearheading the campaign. Over the past few months he has called cities that allow chickens to learn more about their ordinances and rules. He has also started a petition with about 50 signatures and growing.

One of those signatures is Dove Stasko who recently retired and moved into the town. For 35 years, Stasko and her husband lived on a farm with chickens, and she says she misses them.

“I miss my chickens,” Stasko says. “They are sweet little animals and there are a lot of cities and towns that allow chickens so why not our rural town.”

Several cities across Indiana allow residents to keep chickens within city limits. A few of the cities include, South Bend, Evansville and Terre Haute. In Indianapolis residents are allowed to own 12 chickens and one rooster.

Councilman Les Hoffman is for the adding chickens. Hoffman grew up around the birds and even placed 7th in the nation with his high school FFA poultry judging team. As a teacher, Hoffman gave students a first hand look at what it takes to hatch chickens in the classroom. He believes the ‘unique’ idea could help bring residents to the small community.

“If the towns people want something along that line with chickens, then that is something we should be able to accept and try to find if it works for the town,” said Councilman Les Hoffman.

In South Whitley the only type of animals allowed in households are cats and dogs. With the ordinance residents are asking the city allow each property owners to have a maximum of six chickens. Those who spoke with WANE 15 say they are okay with not allowing roosters. However, how big the lot must be to raise and house the chicken coops has not been determined.

While walking around South Whitley several residents say that though they do not personally want chickens they are not against allowing their neighbors to have them.

“They are fine,” says Macy Augustus. “I don’t want chickens. I’m not a chicken lover but I see no reason, no reason at all that people shouldn’t have them.”

“It’s interesting, this resistance, to chickens,” says Brent Augustus. “This is an an opportunity for some families to supplement their income. I am far more concerned about the people who have 12 cats versus a person who wants 6 chickens.”

One of the reasons residents don’t want chickens is that they are worried that it could open the door to other animals like pigs and cows, being allowed in the city. Councilman Hoffman says that if that happens council will listen to residents and make a judgement at this time.

In a statement to WANE 15 South Whitley Council President Randall Cokl raised some concerns.

I am opposed to a blanket change in the way the ordinance is written.  A previous board put this ordinance in place for the benefit of the entire community, protecting homeowners from decreased property values, decreasing the chance of wild animals infiltrating the area, unsightly and unkept areas, and odor being just a few.

However, I would not be opposed to exceptions to the ordinance.  Meeting certain requirements, such as approval of surrounding neighbors, specified building and land requirements, hen limits, permit fees, and zoning approval.  Each person interested in hosting hens would be handled on a case by case basis.

Another concern is who would police those not in compliance if we were to make an exception to the ordinance

Randall C. Cokl South Whitley Council President 

In order for the chicken ordinance to pass a majority must be reached by the city council. The South Whitley council is expected to discuss the ordinance in April. At that time council can either vote for the ordinance, vote against it, table it or pass it to the town’s board of zoning and appeals.

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