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Time to crow: Hillsborough okays backyard chickens

The fight was long, but the vote was easy. The new ordinance says up to five hens can be kept on residential property.

TAMPA — Keeping backyard fowl is now something to crow about in Hillsborough County.

The County Commission adopted a new ordinance Thursday night allowing chickens to be kept in the yards of single-family homes and duplexes. The rule, originally suggested in the spring by Commissioner Sandy Murman, was approved unanimously without commission comment.

The ordinance caps the number of birds allowed at five hens and they must be cooped in an enclosed structure on the rear of the property. Roosters are prohibited. The ordinance does not supersede neighborhood deed restrictions regarding backyard chickens.

The only speaker at the public hearing was Martha Peterson, who reminded commissioners of the early days of the coronavirus pandemic that left some grocery store shelves empty.

“If people were a little bit more self sufficient this would not be such a big problem as it was,” Peterson said.

Related: Hillsborough Commissioner Sandy Murman seeks backyard chicken ordinance.

Chickens do not attract rodents, make less noise than an average dog, create organic fertilizer and, most of all, produce fresh eggs, she said

Peterson also gave the commissioners a quick history lesson about backyard chickens during World War I, when the federal government said the birds provided personal food security, childhood responsibility, recreation and income potential.

“It was considered a patriotic duty,” she said.

Though Thursday’s vote was quick, the actual effort to win county approval took years.

Bonnie Cantrell told the Tampa Bay Times she started an online petition asking for a backyard chicken ordinance in December 2011. It collected 872 signature from the public, but little interest from commissioners at the time.

Cantrell said she started the effort after surrendering her own birds when she learned from county code enforcement that the chickens were not allowed in Brandon.

Related: With less traffic, the Ybor chickens are ruling the Seventh Avenue roost

The commission’s vote drew immediate kudos on the Facebook group Hillsborough County Citizens for Backyard Chickens, which has grown by nearly 50 percent to 918 members since Murman proposed the ordinance in early May.

Some Pinellas County cities approved their own backyard chicken ordinance a decade ago. and the city of Tampa followed suit in 2013. The Hillsborough County ordinance takes effect as soon as it is filed with Florida’s Secretary of State Office.

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