Sheep and Chickens and Roosters! Oh My!

One of the many hats that I wear involves serving on the city of Irving Animal Services Advisory Committee. In the 4 years that I’ve worked with this amazing group of animal lovers, we’ve dealt with very little controversy. Recently, we were asked to draw up a new ordinance to address chicken and rooster ownership in the city. I’m not sure any of us were prepared for the squawking that resulted. But first, some history.

When I was a kid, we lived in a small house on an acre of land. My brother was involved in FFA (Future Farmers of America). We certainly didn’t have a farm, though. I think he joined because they had cool jackets, but I digress.

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*not Jon’s actual jacket

While we didn’t have a working farm, per se, we did have sheep for a period of time. Jon fed them and regularly cleaned their stalls. I would visit them and bring them treats. In return, they nibbled at my t-shirt hem through the low chain-link fence. They were fun little critters, and I was sad when they left. Our neighbors also had large properties, and some of them kept chickens and roosters. At least I think they did: I have memories of waking up to a rooster’s crow. In small-town Kansas in the 80s, this wasn’t uncommon.

Fast-forward to the year 2016 in the big city of Irving, TX. I currently live in a gated condo community that has a fairly restrictive HOA (no sheep allowed). I have just enough yard for my dogs to do their business in, and tall board-on-board fences divide each unit. The rest of the city isn’t like this, though, especially the southern part, and this is where the chickens and roosters come in.

As a committee, we worked with the information provided to us. Based on that, I truly believed that chickens and roosters were a massive problem in the city–the odors, noise, and chaos they created when they got loose–ruffling residents’ feathers to such an extent that people were constantly calling city hall to do something about the birds. And so we approved the plan. The plan went to another committee to determine whether a public hearing should be held on the matter. That committee chose to send it straight to the council for a vote.

Once word got around that roosters would no longer be welcome in the city, people began to organize. They started an online petition asking the city council not to adopt the new ordinance. They like things the way they currently are: restriction-free. As it stands right now, Irving residents can have as many chickens and roosters as they want in whatever size yard they might have (as long as they’re not prohibited by an HOA).

City council members listened and decided not to vote on the ordinance. Instead, they’ve called for two public input meetings to be held next month. Residents are invited to attend and share their thoughts and solutions on the matter. I’ll be there, and I’m looking forward to hearing from all sides.

While we approved the initial plan, I’m glad that council has chosen to listen to the citizens. All voices should be heard on decisions like this that impact a community. I hope that everyone involved attends the meetings with an open mind so we can hatch ideas and come to some sort of compromise. It won’t be easy, but I just hope it doesn’t turn into a game of chicken.

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