City may ease rules on backyard birds

Keizer residents will be able to open their yards and hearts to more chickens – and add ducks to the mix – if a recommendation by the Keizer Planning Commission passes muster with the Keizer City Council. 

Planning commissioners met Wednesday, March 11, and debated the changes which came at the request of Keizer city councilors. 

Keizer currently limits the number of hens allowed in yards to three and that would change to six under the revised code. The proposed revisions also open the door to ducks of both genders. 

The city would also eliminate a no-cost permit to keep chickens in urban areas, but require that chickens remain in coops and covered runways unless under direct supervision of the owner. 

Commissioners and city staff deferred having a larger conversation about adding goats, bees, miniature horses and potbelly pigs into the realm of permitted animals. 

“There are a lot of options out there, but our goal with this was finite,” said Nate Brown, Keizer development director. 

Commissioner Jeffrey Watson questioned the logic of requiring animals to be kept in coops when a six-foot fence might suffice. 

Keizerite Matt Griffith spoke in support of the changes and said he’s never seen anyone have a problem with a six-foot fence as the only barrier. 

“The larger problem in this area is predators,” he said. 

Keizer resident Erica Arcibal spoke in favor of permitting ducks. 

“Duck eggs are bigger and more nutritious and the keep up production through the winter,” Arcibal said. She added that duck coops have more of a horizontal profile than the vertical profile of chicken coops. Adding drakes in addition to hens isn’t the noise problem that roosters can become while offering protection for the females. 

Chris Duggan, another city resident, said chickens could be allowed to range in backyards if their wings were clipped, but predators like hawks and raccoons would remain a danger without a rooster. 

After public testimony, Watson seemed more convinced that mandating coop confinement was unnecessary. 

“I think without it, the code is more difficult to enforce,” said Commissioner Mark Caillier. 

The recommendation, with the mandated confinement, passed unanimously, but still needs to clear the city council’s dais before residents run afoul of the law. 

In other business:

Commissioners approved a new four-foot standard to front yard fencing. For year’s residents have had trouble scrounging up fencing material meeting Keizer’s 3.5-foot maximum height. 

“What that means is we have a lot of illegal fencing all around the city, but this takes care of the problem,” said Shane Witham, Keizer senior planner.