GULFPORT — The chickens are back.
The Gulfport City Council reached an informal consensus Tuesday to allow chickens in the city, but it will take at least one more vote before it can reverse last month's antichicken decision.
The council's unanimous vote on Dec. 2 in favor of allowing Gulfport residents to have up to 10 chickens was rejected two weeks later on a 2-1 vote.
Tuesday, the two council members who did not attend that Dec. 16 meeting — Michele King and Mary Stull — were back, and they supported reconsidering the chicken ordinance.
"That last meeting was unfair to this whole council," King said, questioning why the council did not first consider reducing the number of chickens rather than banning them entirely.
King said she had received more than 20 e-mails from residents in favor of allowing chickens.
Bob Worthington and Judy Ryerson, the two council members who had switched their initial favorable votes to oppose the chicken ordinance, continued their opposition Tuesday.
"Where does it stop?" asked Worthington. "What if somebody wants a goat because it provides milk for the family — do we change the law for that? How about a cow?"
Ryerson said she had "no interest" in revisiting the chicken issue.
Mayor Michael Yakes, who voted twice to allow chickens, said he would again.
"This is a very important issue. It must be with all the time we have spent on it. I would like to put the chickens in a coop," Yakes said as he sought the three-vote majority needed to bring the chicken ordinance back for another vote.
Stull was reluctant at first, wondering how many times the council would revisit the chicken issue. Then she agreed to support another vote.
"We've got three. The chickens are back," Yakes announced to loud audience applause.
Still undecided, however, is whether the council can take a single vote or whether it must start the ordinance process over again, which requires two separate votes at two separate meetings.
Interim City Manager Jim O'Reilly said Wednesday he has asked the city attorney to determine how to proceed at the council's Jan. 20 meeting. Meanwhile, O'Reilly has instructed the Police Department to refrain from enforcing the ban against having chickens in the city.
"We haven't done a chicken census, but I understand more than one family is raising chickens here," he said.
The merits of raising chickens became an issue last summer when Jennifer Conroy and her husband, Briggs Monteith, asked the council to consider allowing chickens in residential back yards.
In June one of Conroy's flock of chickens loudly announced she had laid an egg. A nearby police officer heard the loud clucking, investigated and cited Monteith with a city code violation.
Conroy argued then and again Tuesday night that the chickens were pets and that they allowed her family of three children to regularly harvest environmentally friendly eggs.
"I am thrilled and so are my children," Conroy said Wednesday.