Chicken-owning ordinance passes in close vote

By a vote of 3-2, the Salisbury City Council passed on second reading an ordinance to allow up to six chickens to be raised in city limits.

Council President Jake Day said 1.1 million households in cities nationwide keep the birds, as well as those in more than 20,000 municipalities and in the country and 25 on the Eastern Shore.

“If this is Chicken City USA, we are late to the party. We are not leading. We’re not on the cutting edge. This is being done everywhere,” Day said.

He and Councilmen Tim Spies and Jack Heath voted in favor of the ordinance. Councilwomen Shanie Shields and Laura Mitchell were opposed.

Mayor Jim Ireton hasn’t formally announced his position on the measure, but Monday’s vote margin — if council members maintain their positions — would not be enough to overcome a mayoral veto.

Mitchell worried alous about diseases and said she has heard from constituents who agree with her concerns.

“It’s hard to weed out the Not In My Back Yard people, but with this passing city wide it could be in anybody’s back yard, on both sides,  and a lot of people are just not excited about it. We are pretty rural. We can get fresh eggs anywhere in 15 minutes. It’s not worth the risk,” Mitchell said.

Shields said there are other issues in the community to debate. She said she doesn’t want to have added work for animal control officers.

“I am asking people who want urban chickens to do the right thing and follow the ordinance as you’re supposed to so I don’t have to say, ‘I’m right. I told you so,’” Shields said.

Spies said raising chickens successfully “is all about good husbandry.”

“If you don’t have chickens and you’ve never had chickens, then you shouldn’t have chickens now,” he said, urging learning about the animals.

“We can make laws up and down, outlaw this and the other. But still people are going to have chickens in their back yards whether we authorize it or not,” he said, adding he has seen them in the West Road area.

“Let’s get monitoring and let’s get the state behind us,” he said.

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