Tacoma City Council is considering revisions to city laws that could make it easier for more residents to raise chickens, ducks, geese and other domesticated birds in their backyards. Kristi Lynett, manager of the city’s Office of Sustainability, presented the proposed changes to the domestic fowl ordinance during the council’s Aug. 21 meeting.
The effort began last year when the Sustainable Tacoma Commission studied the issue. This is a group of citizens appointed by the council to review city practices and advise ways in which Tacoma can be more sustainable. A council committee has received updates on the proposed changes.
Under current rules there is no limit to how many birds a Tacoma resident can raise on their property. The proposal would set a limit of six adult birds. Lynett was asked if the proposal defines adult. She said it did not, due to the possibility that a female bird could produce young and thus put the owner’s limit above six hens.
Current rules require chicken coops to be 50 feet away from other buildings. Given the size of the lots in Tacoma, many coops are much closer than this to a house or detached garage. The proposal calls for reducing this setback to 12 feet.
The ordinance would change the term “domestic fowl” to “poultry and pigeons,” with poultry defined as birds raised for meat or eggs, “such as chickens, turkeys, ducks or geese.”
If the council passes the ordinance, the new rules would apply to anyone setting up a new coop. So, residents who currently own more than six birds would be allowed three years to comply with the limit of six.
The ordinance would change violations from a criminal offense to a civil offense. Councilmember David Boe said this is “much more applicable to the situation.”
Roosters have long been banned inside the city limits and this proposal would maintain that. The male of the chicken species is not allowed in town because of their propensity to crow loudly early in the morning. Boe asked if other male birds would be banned, such as turkeys. Lynett said this is not addressed in the proposal. She said male turkeys are not nearly as loud as roosters.
Councilmember Marty Campbell, a Nebraska native, noted he is the only member of the council who grew up on a farm. He noted that male turkeys can get very loud, but they tend to do so later in the day, rather than at the crack of dawn as roosters do. Lynett was directed to consider adding a ban on male turkeys before the measure comes back to the council for a vote.
This led Mayor Marilyn Strickland to jokingly pose a question to the city attorney on the legality of such a ban. “Are the males of the species a protected class?”