FORT PIERCE — After years of sending code-enforcement officers to round up feral chickens, the City Commission now wants to be fowl friendly.
The commission on Monday is to hold the first public hearing on an ordinance to allow residents to have up to six hens — no roosters — in their backyards.
Under the proposed law, chickens would be allowed at single-family homes if kept in a coop, pen, henhouse or run area. The enclosure could be up to 6 feet tall, and would have to be at least 25 feet away from any residential building and at least 10 feet from any property line.
Property owners would need a permit before being authorized to have chickens at home. Renters would need property owners’ consent.
The new rules also would prohibit owners from breeding and selling chickens, their eggs, feathers and manure.
The ordinance is “very forward-thinking of the city, because officials are embracing urban farming,” said Judson Giddens, president of the Florida Urban Agriculture Inc.
“A lot of people get into backyard chickens because they don’t trust their food supply,” Giddens said.
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For years, Fort Pierce has been crying foul over feral chickens, which have evaded capture by hiding in in places such as bushes and tall grass.
The city even offered $5 to anyone who could catch an illegal chicken without harming it and hang on to it until a code enforcement officer would arrive. Those feral chickens were to have been relocated to a farm in western county.
City Commissioner Reggie Sessions said he feared feral chickens breeding with legal chickens, making the problem worse.
“Just last week, I walked past the McDonald’s off Delaware Avenue and there were chickens running around the parking lot,” Sessions said. “That’s not right. That’s not the image I want for the city.”
If the new rules are approved, Fort Pierce would join Stuart, Sebastian and Indian River County on the Treasure Coast and about a dozen cities in Florida which are allowing the birds to be kept in urban residential areas.
Fort Pierce City Commission
When: 6:30 p.m. Monday July 3
Where: City Hall, 100 U.S. 1