Karen Walsh, executive director of McKamey Animal Care and Adoption Center, came to the City Council meeting Tuesday with a list of things the city needs to consider before allowing chickens inside the city limits.
"We don't want to end up as the McKamey Chicken Farm," she told council members.
The City Council is considering changing the city's animal ordinance to allow residents to own chickens under certain stipulations. But Walsh said there were considerations the city needed to address before that ever happened.
Some of her concerns included having a procedure for permitting chickens, amount of distance chickens should be kept away from surrounding homes, how the chickens' feces and feed could affect water quality, whether roosters would be permitted and whether owners would be allowed to slaughter the chickens.
But the largest concern could be that more animal control officers may be needed, depending upon how many people want to take advantage of a backyard chicken program, she said.
Councilman Jack Benson immediately reacted to that revelation.
"Where are you going to get the money?" he asked.
"That's why I'm asking you," Walsh responded.
Council members took on the chicken issue in a 45-minute debate Tuesday during the Legal and Legislative Committee meeting. The tone of the meeting was serious, with the only exception being that Councilwoman Sally Robinson held onto a plastic model of a rooster.
Walsh told the council she did not have any cost estimates about increased costs for the city. She said she feared once the city started, it could be much like a fad where some people buy rabbits on Easter and then they end up at the shelter.
Dave Crockett, director of the Office of Sustainability, said if an owner went through the process of registering a chicken and attending educational classes, he didn't see a problem.
"I don't think it will be like picking up a chicken at Easter," he said.
Councilwoman Pam Ladd said she did not think it would be a good fit.
"I think it's a romantic idea," she said. "I grew up in a rural area. But I know if I want to have that lifestyle again then I have to move out of the city."
Councilman Peter Murphy, chairman of the Legal and Legislative Committee, said the council would decide next week if it wants to proceed forward with changes in the ordinance.