Council measure would allow residents to keep hens, bees

Council President Jake Day said he’s fairly confident City Council members will approve an ordinance to allow hens in Salisbury city limits once they “work through some questions.”

When the topic arose at a recent work session, those questions revolved around the odor of chickens and safety factors. One council member mentioned foxes go after chickens and the mammals can carry rabies.

The chicken ordinance Day favors “will be up for a vote,” he said, once council members are informed about costs related to enforcement and how much time staff would spend enforcing and after they are assured animal control regulations are in place.

Contrary to what some believe, the smell chickens cause is “far less than a dog pen,” Day said, quoting a calculation that it would take 40 hens to equal the tang  of waste produced in a dog pen.

Roosters would be prohibited. Neither could there be any chicken fights. The birds would have to be fenced in, and registered with the department of agriculture.

The odor of six hens, Day said, “is comparable to a Chihuahua, the amount of waste, in general.

The ordinance he wants to see passed is one he wrote after Salisbury artist Sarah Holcott posted an online petition to allow chicken in city limits. She received more than 100 signatures.

City council members have been buzzing about beekeeping, too. Day said even though legal aspects of raising chickens and bees “have nothing to do with one another,” he has an interest in approving both to enhance urban agriculture.

City officials have been working with the Lower Eastern Shore Beekeeping Association and the state’s Department of Agriculture and talking to local beekeepers.

Lack of honey bees is “the major missing link in the community as far as gardening being successful in Salisbury,” he said, adding a shortage of bees “takes away from the natural balance of the environment.”

City Councilwoman Shanie Shields has said she is concerned about others being stung, but Day said beekeepers teach that when healthy honeybees are in the area, other bees stay away. And, areas are more likely to become overrun with wasps if there aren’t enough bees.

“It’s not by design, but it would help to create a safer environment if we were to allow honeybees to be kept,” he said.

A current urban beekeeping ordinance makes it legal, but he wants an ordinance outlining how to raise bees responsibly.

“A new ordinance would address size limitations on what there could be, based on the size of a yard and distance bees would be from other property,” he said.

If the bee ordinance passes, property owners will be able to keep as many as three hives. If they live on more than a half-acre, they could have five.

Contact Susan Canfora at

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