Backyard chickens in Boulder, Broomfield counties

Boulder: Allowed

Longmont: Allowed

Lafayette: Allowed

Louisville: Not allowed

Erie: Not allowed

Superior: Allowed in Original Town; not in Rock Creek

Broomfield: Measure to allow them on ballot this November

LOUISVILLE -- More than two dozen hen lovers gathered at the Louisville Public Library on Monday night to solidify a plan for getting backyard chickens legal residency in this city by summer.

They swapped chicken-raising stories, circulated sign-up sheets and pledged that they would garner enough support to sway the Louisville City Council to give the cluckers and strutters a little bit of love.

"Attitudes are starting to change and we're hoping to capitalize on that goodwill," Steve Domenico, a member of the Louisville Urban Hen Coalition and a 13-year resident of the city, said before Monday's meeting. "I'm building a coop at the moment and when this is official, I'll have a mini-flock and I'll be eating some really good eggs."

The last time backyard chickens came before the city was three years ago -- and it didn't go well for the fine-feathered class. Fears about chicken-driven odors and noise, in addition to worries over disease and predators on the lookout for walking drumsticks led to the issue being tabled.

"There were some strong feeling and words," City Manager Malcolm Fleming said Monday. "I think passion ran pretty high on both sides."

Louisville's ban on backyard chickens has been in place since 1977, even though Fleming said the city allows ducks, turkeys and geese in certain parts of Louisville. In the last few years, communities in Boulder County have legalized backyard chickens, including Longmont in 2010 and Lafayette in 2011.

Boulder allows chickens by default and Broomfield plans to send a ballot measure on the issue to voters in November. The Louisville City Council is scheduled to take up backyard chickens at a study session on July 9.

Until then, the Louisville Urban Hen Coalition will try to get the word out about the virtues of raising chickens. If the coalition's members can't convince the City Council to greenlight the dirt-scratching denizens, coalition members said they will go to the voters with a ballot issue this fall.

Chicken advocates cite a long list of reasons for supporting the practice: better-tasting and more healthful eggs, a natural form of bug and pest control, a walking compost pile, manure as fertilizer, and chickens as cute and cuddly pets.

Karen Wilkinson, a 7-year resident of Louisville, said raising the birds imbues people with a sense of pride at being able to carry on with an age-old tradition in this country. And, she said, it forms an important connection to the land that is increasingly strained as factory farms and commercial egg producers supply Americans with much of what they eat.

"I believe we're coming to a full-circle cycle," she said of the practice. "We're getting back to basics."

And Wilkinson said a lot of the complaints made about backyard chickens are based on flimsy evidence. Since most municipal chicken ordinances don't permit roosters and limit the number of hens to a maximum of six, noise is rarely an issue.

"Pet dogs can make a lot more noise than pet hens," she said.

And with enclosed coops, odor is controlled and predators are kept out, she said.

Two years of raising chickens has made Christina Eisert, of Lafayette, a fan of her feathered flock. She gets about four eggs a day from her bantam chickens and hasn't had to buy eggs at the store for years.

"We enjoy having them," Eisert said. "They kind of bring me outside, even in the rain. They are always happy to see me. It's kind of nice."

She said the animals are so unobtrusive that a neighbor didn't even know she had them in her backyard until recently. The city of Lafayette has issued 45 permits since allowing the poultry two years ago, and a recent staff report noted that there have been "minimal complaints in regard to backyard chickens" in that time.

The downside of raising chickens, Eisert said, is the sorrow anyone feels at losing a pet.

"Chickens are mortal -- that can be hard with kids," she said.