BROOKSVILLE — A proposed ordinance that would allow chickens in residential neighborhoods of Hernando County ruffled some feathers Tuesday during the first of two public hearings on the measure.
After listening to planning and zoning officials explain the provisions — only four hens and no roosters or other fowl would be allowed; a coop and an opaque fence around the property would be required — Commissioner Wayne Dukes had some questions.
"Any of you guys ever raise chickens before?'' Dukes asked.
Then he wanted to know why four chickens and not five. Was there a scientific reason for that?
Planner Omar DePablo explained that, for use by an average family, four to six birds were recommended in literature.
For a large family, Dukes wanted to know, "do you have to choose who gets an egg?''
Dukes said he knew a little bit about raising chickens. Some of his relatives have them. They all have names and sit on the laps of family members. But he said he didn't understand rules about keeping the chickens in coops and behind opaque fences when those aren't requirements for dogs and cats.
"It doesn't pass logic, folks,'' Dukes said.
Ron Pianta, the county's land services director, explained that the staff tried to draw up rules that would protect people from things they do not normally see in residential neighborhoods — in this case, chickens.
Dukes acknowledged that there was a balance to be struck. Some of the email he has received supported the chicken ordinance, he said, while other people "don't want a chicken anywhere but Publix.''
But Dukes said he feared that keeping chickens in a coop would produce more odor and put the birds at risk during the heat of summer.
Pianta countered that some modern coops can be moved around the yard so one area isn't always impacted. The owners of chickens would also be responsible for proper care of the birds, he said.
Commission Chairman Dave Russell urged his colleagues to avoid a long discussion about the ordinance since they faced a lengthy agenda at Tuesday's meeting. He urged individual commissioners to talk to the staff before the next hearing if they have questions.
He also added his own thoughts on the matter. He said he hoped the Planning and Zoning Commission and the County Commission will not have to hear and review every request for a permit to raise chickens.
Spring Hill resident Carol Aquilante, who had originally asked the commission to consider allowing chickens in neighborhoods, was undaunted by the debate. She told commissioners she was eager for the ordinance to be approved and already had lumber on hand to build her coop.
"I've really enjoyed the process,'' Aquilante said.
The proposed ordinance will come back to the commission for a final public hearing on Feb. 26.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.