Some Annapolis residents can start .
Close to 1 a.m. Tuesday, the Annapolis City Council voted 6-3 to allow residents to keep up to five chickens on their properties.
Alderwoman Sheila Finlayson, of Ward 4, Alderman Ross Arnett, of Ward 8, and Alderman Fred Paone, of Ward 2, were the only council members to vote against the law, which would also require residents to provide the chickens—not roosters—with a sturdy coop and an attached enclosure located at least five feet from the property line.
"It is an imposition on those people that don't want this, who say, I live in the city because I don't want to live on a farm," Arnett said.
Those who wish to keep chickens must receive approval from all adjacent neighbors through a registry from the Department of Neighborhood and Environmental Programs. The properties must also be pre-approved by the department.
The council is required to review the law before it automatically expires in 2015.
To further educate council members on the subject, experts were brought in to offer testimony.
Dr. Guy Hohenhaus, the state veterinarian with the Maryland Department of Agriculture, said that concerns about the impact on public health, the environment and noise levels are largely unsubstantiated.
He said diseases caused by chickens are limited, compared to dogs and cats, and worries about chicken waste are no more of an issue than for any other animal.
Hohenhaus added that while roosters are ill-advised because they can be noisy, chickens would not generally be so loud.
"The hens are probably quieter than a house cat," Hohenhaus said.
Alderman Mathew Silverman, of Ward 5, who said he was on the fence about the issue, found the testimony enlightening.
"You shed a lot of light on a subject that is a hot topic for us," Silverman said.
Carol Schenker, an Anne Arundel County resident, was one of several people who attended the public hearing to voice her support.
"Some may believe chickens in Annapolis would tarnish the lovely city," Schenker said. "Nevertheless, there are many people that would think of Annapolis as an eco-friendly, forward place if this change is made."
There was no testimony against the bill at the hearing.
Finlayson said some of her constituents had sent her emails expressing
their concerns. She read passages from a few of the emails including
one from a resident who worried that the legislation would pit neighbor
against neighbor and end up in the courts.
"You need to see what we weren't hearing in the council chambers for the last month and a half," Finlayson said.