EDITORIAL: Meriden not chicken when it comes to changing rules

EDITORIAL: Meriden not chicken when it comes to changing rules

Meriden residents who would like to keep a few domestic fowl in the yard may soon be able to do so, because the city is planning to clarify and simplify the rules regulating the keeping of chickens on private property.

As things stand, requests for keeping poultry are handled on a case-by-case basis through the Zoning Board of Appeals, which “can be kind of intimidating for a normal citizen who wants to keep six hens in their backyard,” said Assistant Planning Director Paul Dickson. Under a new arrangement, approvals could be handled routinely by the city’s planning office staff.

Dickson and City Planner Renata Bertotti have noticed a “significant” number of petitions for special exceptions to keep poultry in residential zones, suggesting that there is a desire in the community for keeping chickens. The reasons for this apparent increase are unclear, although the number of websites catering to residential chicken-keeping suggest the hobby is trending right now.

The existing regulations on the “keeping of farm animals” force the ZBA to deal with applications on a case-by-case basis. This is made more difficult because the rules do not even define “farm animals,” nor do they provide standards for “keeping,” or the maximum number of animals allowed, or requirements for enclosures, food and waste storage and disposal.

The proposed regulation would allow the keeping of poultry as an accessory use subject to obtaining a simple zoning permit in a rural residential zone, suburban residential district, single-family residential, and two- or three-family residential district, as long as the criteria for keeping the animals are met. Poultry is defined as domestic fowl, such as chickens, turkeys, and ducks — no roosters or male turkeys — raised for meat, eggs or show.

The changes make sense and should be adopted. We commend the city’s Planning Department for its continuing review of regulations that need updating.