Red Bank passes new backyard chicken ordinance with no minimum lot size requirement

Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton /  Red Bank commissioners passed an ordinance eliminating the half-acre minimum lot size for keeping backyard chickens in the city.
Staff file photo by Matt Hamilton / Red Bank commissioners passed an ordinance eliminating the half-acre minimum lot size for keeping backyard chickens in the city.

An ordinance eliminating the half-acre minimum lot size requirement for keeping backyard chickens passed in Red Bank by a final 3-2 vote of the City Commission.

Commissioners Pete Phillips and Jamie Fairbanks-Harvey voted no, as they did on the first vote.

"We have one code enforcement officer, and I think we're pushing a lot on our staff here by allowing, you know, 70% of our residents to have chickens," Phillips said before the vote at the commission's Tuesday meeting. "There's no way to enforce this."

The city's staff will be tasked with ensuring residents who keep chickens follow guidelines including acquiring and renewing permits and placing coops a minimum of 50 feet from Stringers Branch, Phillips said.

Staff will also have to deal with cases of chicken abuse, neglect and abandonment, he said.

Phillips believes people will keep chickens without permits because they think it's allowed under the new law, he said.

Mayor Hollie Berry said at the meeting, in her experience, all previous complaints from residents about chickens were about chickens kept without permits.

"People who are going to have chickens without permits are going to continue to have chickens without permits even if we change the permitting requirements," Berry said.

(READ MORE: Raising chickens a popular pastime in Chattanooga area)

Fairbanks-Harvey said she is concerned about potential consequences.

"We're in a city, we're in an urban environment," Phillips said. "This is not where you have chickens and fowl."

Berry said she would keep her mind open to future amendments to the ordinance if problems occur.

"Having known neighbors who kept chickens, they were of minimal problem, none to me at all, and I got bonus eggs," said Red Bank resident Laurie Dworak, one of three residents to speak in favor of the ordinance during the public hearing before the vote. "I really feel like anyone who has the courage and tenacity to take up some urban farming like that, we should encourage them, because I feel like they are an asset to the community as a whole. Plus, I enjoy the sound of the chickens."

No residents who spoke at the public hearing were against the ordinance.

Changes to the chicken ordinance were requested by residents who were prevented from keeping chickens by the half-acre minimum lot-size requirement.

As with the previous chicken ordinance, residents who choose to keep chickens on their property still must maintain minimum setback requirements of 25 feet from neighboring properties.

The new ordinance includes an annual chicken permit renewal requirement and details on chicken waste disposal methods, such as composting or placing in the trash for city sanitation workers to collect. It also requires coops to be located at least 10 feet from the main structure on the chicken owner's property.

Chickens are limited to properties in the R1 and R1A single family residential zones, which comprise about 70% of the city's residential districts.

To acquire an initial or renewal permit, citizens must submit an application and have their property inspected by the city code enforcement staff.

Contact Emily Crisman at or 423-757-6508.

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