Wednesday, November 22, 2017
News Roundup

Chicken regulations to be revisited in Tampa

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — They climb onto your lap, craving affection like a cat. You can pet them.

"They're lovey,'' said Susan Ramos of the hens she raised along the Hillsborough River in West Tampa when her kids were little.

Yes, hand-raised chickens. Domesticated.

Ramos calls herself a city cowgirl. She would like to start a business selling coops to people who have embraced the locavore movement, which espouses eating locally grown foods, at a backyard level. So first, Ramos, 45, sought clarity on Tampa's chicken regulations.

She learned that keeping chickens in Tampa is essentially illegal.

The code, in effect since 1990, requires farm animals, including fowl, to be enclosed in an area at least 200 feet from neighboring homes. That's two-thirds the length of a football field.

"You would pretty much have to own a whole city block to meet that requirement," said Thom Snelling, Tampa's director of planning and development.

At a City Council meeting Thursday, someone from his office will tell members how the code really works. Code enforcement officers cite chicken owners only when a neighbor complains. Then the owner must get rid of them.

Ramos, who initiated the chicken talk at an earlier meeting, will be there, too. She suggests the council follow unincorporated Pinellas County, which passed an ordinance in December permitting up to four hens in residential areas.

In recent years, backyard chickens have ruffled feathers and run afoul of rules nationwide. In Seattle, a regulation approved in 2010 allows for eight domestic fowls per city lot. In New York City, hens are unlimited — considered pets. Most cities outlaw roosters, which crow. Hens don't crow and don't need roosters to lay eggs.

Despite the Tampa rules, chickens aren't new here.

They're in back yards in Seminole Heights and Forest Hills and on Davis Islands. Four years ago, then-Mayor Pam Iorio proclaimed Ybor City roosters free to roam the streets under a 1989 city ordinance designating Tampa a sanctuary for all birds, including "wildfowl."

People tend to love them or hate them.

In the past two years, code enforcement received 483 chicken complaints. It deemed 191 to be valid.

City Council member Frank Reddick's grandparents kept chickens in their back yard in East Tampa. The old hens that stopped laying eggs went into a soup pot.

About a year ago, a chicken showed up in his yard.

"It was the biggest nuisance of my life," he said. "It mucked up the flower beds and kicked up everything. Then at night it would go to sleep in my tree."

After a few months, he called animal control to trap it.

In 1961, Charles Shell opened a feed store selling chicks and eggs in the city. Today his son, Greg Shell, sells 200 to 300 chicks a week.

"People have always had chickens in the city," said Shell, who also sells 3 tons of feed per week. "I would say we're the go-to place."

His customers say they do it for eggs without hormones or antibiotics. He tells them to expect a hen to lay 180 a year, starting when they are about 8 months old. After two or three years, production slows. By then, many owners have grown attached.

When people ask if they are legal in the city, Shell refers them to code officials. His customers have been cited for keeping chickens. Sometimes, they've brought the birds back.

Mina Morgan, a lawyer who handles animal cases, recently fought for a client keeping hens in the city and lost. She will speak at the meeting, suggesting chickens, like barking dogs, be governed by nuisance laws.

She says she will take any chicken case in the city until the rule is changed, for the cost of courthouse parking, gas and fresh eggs.

Ramos says the lessons her kids learned about food coming from their back yard is valuable. She says the chickens give people a sense of food security.

"Chickens have a bad reputation," she said. "But they're clean and quiet and smart."

Last week, she brought home four chicks to her South Tampa apartment.

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.

Comments
Hometown Pasco for Nov. 24

Hometown Pasco for Nov. 24

We want your news! Hometown Pasco is devoted to everyday life in our county, whether it’s snapshots from your family reunion, recreational sporting event, news from your last club meeting or just a few lines thanking someone for a job well do...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Call Missouri jinxed, but Michael Porter Jr. injury is its own story

Please repeat after me: There is no such thing as jinxes, hexes, ghosts or cartoonish black clouds looming with personalized curses for select targets.Honest.But, boy, are there coincidences — even if some say there is no such thing as those, either....
Updated: 4 hours ago
Cambridge Christian’s Caleb Young makes up for lost season

Cambridge Christian’s Caleb Young makes up for lost season

TAMPA — For Cambridge Christian, last Friday’s Class 2A region final against Indian Rocks Christian represented a hurdle that the Lancers couldn’t quite clear a year ago. For one Lancer in particular, it was the Golden Eagles themselves that brought ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs journal: Defense struggling to get off the field on third and long

Bucs journal: Defense struggling to get off the field on third and long

TAMPA — Third and long, normally an ideal situation for an NFL defense, continues to be a problem as the Bucs try to get opposing offenses off the field.In the second half of Sunday’s game, the Dolphins converted six third downs when they needed 8 ya...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

TAMPA — The Bucs face the defending NFC champions twice in their final six games. As they prepare to go to Atlanta on Sunday, former Tampa Bay first-round pick Adrian Clayborn is enjoying quite a two-week run.Clayborn, 29, had six sacks Nov. 12 in a ...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

Fennelly: USF-UCF rivalry needs more than directional disrespect

TAMPA — It’s the biggest football game in USF history.It’s two days and 90 miles away. USF at UCF. The 9-1 Bulls against the 10-0 Knights. It’s USF coach Charlie Strong against UCF/Florida/Nebraska coach Scott Frost. It’s the best these two programs ...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Chip Kelly is not the best candidate for Florida job

For the sake of a beleaguered and bedraggled fan base, here’s hoping Chip Kelly becomes the next head coach of the Florida Gators even though I think he’s not a great fit — culturally, geographically and philosophically — at UF.Gator Nation needs som...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Lane Kiffin knows speculation about his future grows with each victory

BOCA RATON — Lane Kiffin already knows what profession he will choose once his coaching career ends.Kiffin, in his first season at Florida Atlantic, thinks he is destined to join the sports-media ranks. It will provide him opportunity to switch roles...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Strong’s slip about UCF’s Griffin seen as motivation for Knights

Strong’s slip about UCF’s Griffin seen as motivation for Knights

TAMPA — While saying nothing to purposely fan the flames of the USF-UCF rivalry during his weekly news conference Tuesday, Bulls coach Charlie Strong provided fuel for the Knights’ best player.He used the H-word when discussing Knights senior outside...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Miami up to No. 2, behind Alabama, in College Football Playoff rankings

Miami up to No. 2, behind Alabama, in College Football Playoff rankings

Miami moved up to No. 2 behind Alabama in the College Football Playoff rankings released Tuesday night, with Clemson slipping one spot to three and Oklahoma holding at four. Wisconsin and Auburn remained next up behind the top four in a week when the...
Updated: 5 hours ago