The Blacksburg Planning Commission last week approved an ordinance (Ordinance 1888) amendment that might allow hens in certain residential areas and in a pilot program in the Bennett-Hill/Progress Street neighborhood closer to downtown. The amendment modifies the definition of the term “Agriculture” to include that the keeping up to four hens that the town is calling urban chickens.
The amendment would establish criteria for keeping urban chickens on residential property. Property allowed to raise chickens, not roosters, would contain one single-family detached dwelling in the R-4 Low Density, Residential, RR-1 Rural Residential and RR-2 Rural Residential Zoning districts where chickens are now allowed on a lot size of two acres.
Pens would require four square feet per hen and an open run of eight square feet per hen. Chickens could be raised in a rear yard only, 15 feet from a property line and 50 feet from neighboring dwellings.
A one-year pilot program is proposed in the Bennett-Hill/Progress Street neighborhood that runs about six blocks west of and parallel to Main Street.
The conversation around chickens began Jan. 8. While the amendment includes an $30 initial application fee, the same as a zoning permit, it requires annual renewal with no additional charge.
If you have hens now, 45-day grace period to comply with chicken keeping criteria and apply said Paul Patterson presenting the staff report. Applications would require a chicken management plan that describes chicken care.
Patterson made key chicken-raising points including that chickens, from 6 months old to 2 years-old lay an egg a day, that means 28 eggs a week from four hens. They are prey animals and will attract predators. Hens live to be more than 10 years old, eat a quarter pound of feed a day and make “a little over a pound of good fertilizer a day,” Patterson said.
Jennifer Vance who recently moved to Bburg rose for public comment.
“Having chickens has been a big part of our decision of where to buy a house,” she said. “We’re excited and hope that this ordinance change happens. We have five kids and its been a fun thing we’ve done with our children when we’ve lived other places.”
The motion was sent to council by unanimous vote.
Town Council will consider the amendment during a work session on March 19, then hold a public hearing on April 9.
Coincidently, Frank Hyamn, author of “Hentopia: Create a hassle-free habitat for happy chickens” will talk about his book, chicken jungle gyms, chunnels and crickets at the Hahn Horticultural Garden (200 Garden Lane, on VT campus) from 1-2:30 p.m. on March 16