Bridgeport seeks chicken-friendly status

Councilman Richard Paoletto holds a hen at a press conference formally announcing a proposed poultry ordinance at Beardsley Zoo on Tuesday, March 25, 2014. (Photo: Jason Bagley)

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (WTNH) — In the name of sustainability and wholesome family values, Mayor Bill Finch Tuesday formally announced a proposed poultry ordinance that would allow city residents to keep up to six chickens on their property.

“There’s a lot of talk with poultry in the city and we don’t want people to run afoul of the law,” Finch told reporters outside a barn at Bridgeport’s Beardsley Zoo.

Finch was referring to both the lack of a law governing hen-raising and the prevalence of such activity in the city. “We know this is being done,” the Democrat said. “We want an ordinance for it.”

All that’s on the books now is a nuisance complaint, says Warren Blunt, the city’s director of environmental health. When one is issued, a homeowner is given 14 days to remove the noise-maker. Usually, residents comply, Blunt said.

Mayor Bill Finch prepares to handle a hen . (Photo: Jason Bagley)
Mayor Bill Finch prepares to handle a hen . (Photo: Jason Bagley)

Officials say noise has been factored into the newly drafted ordinance, which doesn’t allow roosters. The new law aims to find a balance between those who support urban farming and those who don’t want to be bothered by it.

“We tried to make it as palatable, feasible for all people involved,” said Councilman Richard Paoletto, D-138, who’s also chairman of the ordinance committee.

Under the current language of the proposal — which was reportedly tabled Tuesday night — applicants are required to attend a two-hour training session at Beardsley Zoo and submit a plot plan to the health department prior to approval.

Coops must be 25 feet removed from the house and at least five feet from property lines. Renters must get approval from their landlord and/or other tenants.

The chickens can only be raised as pets or for their eggs. They can’t be used for commercial gain. It’s $50 for a license and there’s a $150 a day fee for any violations.

In the maximum number of hens allowed, Bridgeport’s proposed ordinance mirrors the one New Haven passed in 2009. Finch said six is “a manageable number for an urban environment.” From the spring to fall, an adult hen could lay an egg a day, says Beardsley zookeeper Lindsay Carubia.

“Imagine waking up, gathering six to eight eggs and cooking your family breakfast,” Finch said.

A public hearing will be held before anything becomes law.

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