BROOKSVILLE — Residential communities in Hernando County could soon have some new neighbors — neighbors with feathers.
The county's Planning and Zoning Commission on Monday unanimously recommended that the County Commission approve changes to the county's land development rules, allowing chickens on certain residentially zoned property.
The regulations would require that a resident seek a special permit through the county before acquiring up to four hens. That means residents would have to appear at a public hearing.
The proposed rules also set out the minimum size of the backyard chicken coup, requirements for fencing to shield the chickens from passersby and neighbors, and guidelines for keeping the area sanitary.
Roosters, geese, ducks and other fowl would not be permitted.
The issue came forward late last year when a Spring Hill woman sought to have chickens at her home to provide fresh eggs. County commissioners asked the planning staff to prepare an ordinance change.
Planning commission member Robert Widmar, who acknowledged he was no farmer, asked if hens laid eggs without roosters.
Planners assured him they did.
Pamela Vergara, an alternate commission member, questioned whether residents would be allowed to harvest chickens for their meat.
While ordinances in other places specify that chickens cannot be butchered on site, Hernando planners did not address the issue. County zoning supervisor Chris Linsbeck noted that outlawing the butchering of chickens raised the question of what a resident would do after a chicken stops laying eggs.
Planning commission members also asked the staff whether the minimum coup size was big enough. In addition, they sought more details about fencing and setback requirements and whether the application fee for a permit would be too high if someone was raising chickens to save money on food.
Ron Pianta, the county's land services director, said the popularity of raising chickens in urban areas is more about lifestyle than cost savings. He also noted that the ordinance was "something new for us'' and that the staff was trying to make it work for the chicken owners, "but it has to work for the neighborhood, too.''
The County Commission will consider the ordinance on Feb. 12 and 26.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.