By Doug Lindner
SOLON– Other towns are doing it.
Why not Solon?
Ethan Kober, accompanied by his father Scott, posed the question to the Solon City Council at an Aug. 21 meeting.
“I’ve raised chickens the last four years, and I’d like to continue to do that in Solon,” Kober told council members. He asked what could possibly be done to allow backyard chickens within the Solon city limits.
Several area communities have considered the same question, and the subject will at least get due consideration by council members, who agreed to place backyard chickens on the agenda for a future meeting.
Mayor pro tem Steve Stange acknowledged that both Iowa City and Mount Vernon have ordinances allowing residents to raise chickens, and pointed out Solon had a more liberal stance toward livestock until the 1980s.
City attorney Jim Martinek concurred.
“In the late ‘80s, we moved toward eliminating farm animals for all but agricultural areas,” he said. Under the current restrictions, he said, probably only a very small area of the city near North Iowa Street would qualify.
When asked to provide some history, Martinek said the change had to do with the increasing density of housing in Solon and a general move to a more “citified age.”
“People started living closer together, and they did not want to have the problem of the flies and manure and the sound of chickens,” Martinek explained.
Council members and Martinek discussed some of the restrictions heard mentioned in other cities, including a ban on roosters, limits on the number of chickens allowed and the possibility of neighborhood approval.
“I’d sure hate to have an ordinance that would depend on neighborhood approval,” Martinek said.
The Kobers moved to Solon in July, and Ethan, 11, said he had six chickens, which are currently being boarded outside the city.
“They’re pretty much pets, right?” asked council member Ron Herdliska.
“They’re all named,” responded Ethan’s dad, Scott.
“At this point, my question would be to the council, is there anyone that wishes to put this on a future agenda?” Stange asked.
Council member Jessie Ehlinger indicated she would like to see what other communities are allowing.
Solon city administrator was directed to review what’s currently on the books for the city, as well as ordinances that have been adopted in other towns.
Across the lake, the city of North Liberty is in the process of approving its own set of regulations for backyard chickens.
North Liberty’s city council recently approved the second reading of its ordinance, under which residents who live in single-family or zero lot line dwellings could keep a maximum of four domestic chickens in an outdoor coop that provides at least four square feet and no more than 12 square feet of space per bird. It sets forth several design, construction, location and maintenance requirements for coops, as well as standards for keeping them clean, safe and sanitary.
Chicken owners would have to apply for a permit and pay a $250 deposit in addition to a $20 annual permit fee and a $3 fee per band for each bird.
In addition, the current language requires the birds’ wings be clipped.
The North Liberty council declined to include neighborhood approval requirements.
Other Iowa cities that have allowed for keeping chickens include Ames, Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Urbandale, Clive and Iowa City. Proponents maintain raising chickens in a more natural environment produces healthier birds– and therefore, more nutritious and better tasting eggs and meat– than those raised in commercial production facilities.