City Council may permit chickens in Chattanooga

City Council may permit chickens in Chattanooga

May 23rd, 2013 by Cliff Hightower in Local Regional News

Chattanooga City Hall

Chattanooga City Hall

Photo by Meghan Brown


A rough draft of a proposed ordinance to allow chickens within city limits includes the following provisions:

• Chickens are classified as livestock

• Owners can keep up to six chickens

• Chickens cannot be slaughtered

• Chicken ordinance will sunset within a year

• Owners of chickens must have permits for the livestock and have holding areas pre-inspected

Source: Animal Control Board

POLL: Should people be allowed to raise chickens in the city?

Chattanooga's City Council vice chairman said Wednesday he wants to see as little government control as possible if chickens ultimately are allowed within city limits.

He said the city already licenses some animals, so it could easily do the same thing for fowl.

"We license dogs," said Chip Henderson. "What would be the difference between licensing a dog and licensing a chicken?"

But Melinda Foster, attorney for the Chattanooga Animal Control Board, said an ordinance she is proposing calls for permits rather than licenses. She said there needs to be more control for an animal listed as livestock and not a household pet.

"There needs to be some regulation," she said.

The Animal Control Board met Wednesday to discuss a series of new animal ordinances to be brought before the council within a month. The majority of the discussion centered around whether chickens should be allowed in Chattanooga.

A proposed ordinance to allow chickens failed to make it through the City Council two weeks ago.

Councilmen Chris Anderson, Moses Freeman, Jerry Mitchell and Henderson attended the board meeting.

Henderson said for him, the largest obstacle to the ordinance is the permitting process. The proposed ordinance would call for a pre-inspection of the coop and pen where the chickens are to be held.

If the council approves chickens within city limit, the McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center would issue permits, inspect the hen houses and enforce any violations.

Henderson said he would rather see licensing without an inspection.

Karen Walsh, executive director for the McKamey center, said dogs are licensed because of the threat of rabies. The state requires dog owners to have their pets vaccinated. But licensing would be more tricky with chickens since they have no similar issues.

Other cities also give permits, Walsh said.

"Nashville, Knoxville and Memphis all have permitting processes," she said.

But board member Lori Quillen also said that Nashville and Memphis do not require inspections. She said she was worried that McKamey may be weighted down with extra work.

"I'm concerned about the burden on McKamey," she said.

But Henderson said if the city decides not to conduct inspections, there is no point in getting permits.

"What's the push for permitting if we aren't going to inspect?" he asked.

Contact staff writer Cliff Hightower at or 423-757-6480. Follow him at or