Tonight, our suburban city council gave us permission to have 6 hens.
We started the permit application process after building most of the coop in March so that we'd be able to accurately describe the coop. Our city, unlike St. Paul and Minneapolis*, has quite picky requirements about outbuildings, including chicken coops. If we'd known this before starting, we would have chosen exterior grade plywood rather than assuming chickens could handle painted OSB and a heat lamp in the winter. Apparently, there's debate whether insulating a coop keeps them warm or isolates them too much. The city wante
d us to put siding on the walls and shingles on the roof and told us it was illegal to compost food. Oooookkkaaaay. We made some changes, promised to do others, and got the approval of all the inspectors. Then the city sent a notice to all the neighbors within 200 feet of our property lines (using a measuring approach that added a few on the corners in addition to including 8 homes whose properties are EXACTLY 200 feet away, across both an alley and a street). Using that wacky math, there are 31 homes (all single-residences) within the range. One next-door neighbor started avoiding us. Our behind-the-alley neighbor came over to say she was worried about smell, noise, and rats. Our other next-door neighbor said he had angry neighbors calling in ho
pes that he'd get upset and show up at the meeting to complain. Other neighbors wandered by, excited about our plans. I spent a week wringing my hands over the fact that people nearby are angry with me and don't have the decency to tell us what their problem is.
Last night, we went a few blocks away to a neighbor who has two unpermitted hens (permits are only required for 3+). For the 20 minutes we were there, we didn't hear a squeak out of them and smelled nothing. They said they'd had a raccoon try to get into the food stored in the garage once, but no predators had even tried to get into the coop and they hadn't seen a single rodent.
Tonight, Dan went to the council meeting dressed in his tie from work while I escaped to an Usborne books party so as to not make things worse. Our disapproving neighbor showed up to air her grievances along with another neighbor on the edge of the boundary. Our two-doors-down neighbor came to support us.
In the end, we agreed to block off the coop better on the neighbor's side -- it's 15ish feet from their unfenced property--and to come back in a year for neighbors to talk about any problems that may develop. I'm hoping we can just put up a privacy fence along that section of backyard and make everyone happy. Because we have to live next to them, our kids like playing together, and I'd rather find a way to make everyone happy than say "Ha ha, we won suckas!!!". At least I won't to their faces :)
Coming this weekend, I hope -- photos of the new ladies taking up residence in the backyard.
* The inner cities require approval by animal control, which does not involve siding, but does check to make sure the hens will be healthy and safe. They're pickier with neighbor approval, which makes some sense with 40' wide lots. 80% approval within 150' is required, although streets aren't crossed. So you can have one pissed off neighbor, but probably not two, and you need signatures of approval, which is trickier than just requesting people come to a meeting if they're opposed. We didn't have any exact neighbor requirements.