published Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

Chattanooga chicken backers flock to Facebook


by Cliff Hightower

Poll
Should people be allowed to raise chickens in the city?

A Facebook group of more than 350 followers is all aflutter with efforts to make keeping chickens legal in Chattanooga.

Chicken Legal, an informal grass-roots organization has started meeting month-to-month with one objective: Let henhouses into the city.

"We think there's a reasonable way to do this," said Dr. Jane Gumnick, a psychologist.

The group faces an uphill battle.

Two years ago, the City Council considered changing the city's animal ordinance to allow chickens. The council dropped the idea after Karen Walsh, executive director of the McKamey Animal Control and Adoption Center, cited worries about disease, concerns over homeowners slaughtering chickens and questions about whether the city would have to hire more animal control officers.

Councilman Peter Murphy, chairman of the Legal and Legislative Committee, said he thinks the idea should wait until after the March city elections.

"I don't plan on bringing it up this term" because there was so little support last time, he said.

Even Chicken Legal group members have mixed feelings on whether to wait or try pushing the chicken ordinance through before the city elections.

Gumnick said the group needs to be strategic this time around and educate council members and the city about chickens in an urban area.

"I don't think enough groundwork will be ready before the election," she said.

John Sweet, owner of Niedlov's Bakery and a member of the group, said he would rather push forward. He said he thinks it's more of a communication problem than a problem within the ranks of the City Council.

"There wasn't enough discussion before it was dumped into their laps," he said.

He thinks members of Chicken Legal could help build a coop at the McKamey Center and could take in chickens that strayed from their coops.

Both Gumnick and Sweet said the group has been studying other urban chicken ordinances in cities from Chicago to Nashville to Signal Mountain.

They want an ordinance that will work, Gumnick said.

"It needs to be properly and responsibly approached," she said.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at chightower@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6480. Follow him at twitter.com/cliffhightower or facebook.com/cliff.hightower.

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