Council Considers Allowing Chickens on Small Properties

Murrieta Mayor Randon Lane stopped for a selfie with some local children who brought pet chickens to City Hall before Tuesday night'...

Murrieta Mayor Randon Lane stopped for a selfie with some local children who brought pet chickens to City Hall before Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
Murrieta 24/7 photos: Kristen Spoon

Murrieta residents shouldn't expect to see chickens cross the road, but they may soon be allowed to house them in their own back yard.

The Murrieta City Council on Tuesday asked city staff to return to a future meeting with a proposed ordinance allowing residents to keep chickens in tract home neighborhoods. Currently, chickens are allowed only in rural residential or estate residential zones of a half-acre or more.

Several residents first made the request during a February council meeting and have been vocal in their feelings about having chickens as pets and to produce farm-fresh eggs. Outside City Hall before Tuesday night's meeting, three young girls held pet chickens to show guests as they arrived. Inside, residents spoke in support of the ordinance change.

"I've lived here over 25 years," said resident Nancy Phillips during the public comments portion of the meeting. "I've raised three kids here. I would like the city to consider allowing chickens as pets in tract housing.

"One hen is approximately four to seven pounds and can live up to 10 years. They require no more maintenance than a dog or cat. They don't smell any more than other pets do with properly cleaned pens. They cackle when they lay, usually once a day. But the noise level is about seven decibels, the same level as I am speaking now. Barking dogs are much louder."

City planner Cynthia Kinser showed city council members data from surrounding cities, including Temecula, which allows a maximum of four chickens on lots of 7,200 square feet of more and up to 50 chickens on lots of an acre or more. Hemet allows up to four chickens on lots of 7,200 square feet or more. Menifee also allows up to four chickens on residential lots.

Council members agreed there should be a restriction against roosters and some guidelines regarding enclosures for the chickens, but they generally were in agreement that a policy could be worked out to allow residents to have a small number of chickens in their back yard.

"I grew up with chickens, pigs and goats," said council member Alan Long. "I agree with all the speakers. The product (eggs) is much better than you would buy in a store. When you talk about smaller lots, there are some concerns. I don't think it's anything that can't be mitigated.

"It's a maintenance issue. If you don't maintain any animal properly, it's going to smell, attract flies, something. I would advocate for the policy. We just need to cross the Ts and dot the Is."

Only one resident spoke in opposition of the proposed ordinance. Mayor pro tem Rick Gibbs made it clear that residents would have another opportunity to speak when the issue returns to the council for further consideration, including what happens to adult chickens that are no longer producing eggs or are no longer wanted as pets.

"As we go forward, we'll need to set a hearing where both sides can express their opinions," Gibbs said. "For me the biggest issue is if you view these as pets. There will be some turnover in the number of chickens. I would go along with the feeling that we would not allow a slaughtering situation.

"It really gets down to community values, based on input from all the community. What's the minimum lot size? I don't think we're prepared to decide that now. We've got to set some rules."



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