By Jill Richardson
Who would have thought that chickens would not be allowed in the city limits of rural Melba, Idaho? Not this gal. In fact, they are not allowed if you have less than one acre and that just flaps my waddles.
As some of you know from a previous story in KMN, the very story that got me busted, I wrote about how I came to be a chicken farmer in Melba. I went to a local feed store in April of this year and the manager was at a loss on what to do with a bunch of chickens she had for sale that would not quit pecking each other. They were a bit bloody and unattractive. Quite frankly, who knew what their survival rate was with all the injuries? I took a batch of them home, on a whim. The idea that I was housing them was against city ordinance did not even cross my mind, I live in one of the most rural farming communities around and we pride ourselves on that fact.
My story was published, someone read it and then got to fussing like an old hen. Then I got busted. Two commissioners from Melba City Planning and Zoning–who conveniently both live in my neighborhood–came knocking on my door with a copy of the city ordinance and the homeowner association covenants. They explained that I was not allowed to keep my chickens there. By the end of the visit, one of the commissioners said that a few others in the neighborhood had chickens and if I kept only two or three, he wouldn’t think people would complain. The other commissioner thought they still might.
While trying to figure out which one to listen to, I decided that I would work on changing the actual ordinance. Granted the change in the homeowner association may be harder than city code, but I’m going to start at the top, with the City of Melba.
First things first, I had to get those chickens out of there so we loaded them up the next day and hauled them all across the river to my brother’s house. We rigged up their calf pen to also hold chickens. Those calves didn’t quite know what to think, but I think in the end they will all grow to love one another.
So I hatched the idea to present my plea to the Melba City Council and Mayor. Surrounding cities, rural and urban, have changed their ordinances to all allow for urban agriculture or backyard chickens in recent years. In this day and age when people are trying to scratch out a living and are not sure where their next meal may come from, it’s nice to know that they have one in the backyard. Even Henry IV said “I want there to be no peasant in my kingdom so poor that he cannot have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.”
At the June council meeting, I presented my case and quoted Jase Robertson of the Duck Dynasty reality television show when he addressed his homeowner association, “We are endowed by our creator with certain inevitable rights, life, liberty and happiness. Chickens make me happy. They eat insects, they fertilize the yard and if something goes wrong, you can put them in a pot.” The council agreed to put it on the agenda for review.
According to my research, Boise has its ordinance allowing six hens, no rooster. Caldwell allows up to 10 hens and even has them classified as pets and exempt from the livestock rules. Caldwell also reduced the amount of acreage needed for livestock from one acre down to a half-acre. Nampa allows three chickens and Marsing up to 12. Kuna allows for four chickens in a residential neighborhood. Meridian has no limit. Of course they all require some level of noise and odor control. The chickens generally must be penned up.
I don’t see why Melba shouldn’t be following suit, as a matter of fact; I believe we should have already embraced our rural culture and allowed for responsible small livestock and poultry raising households. Self-sustainability is what we should be relying on. If we can’t provide for ourselves then we are in sad shape.