Chickens coming soon to Tampa backyards? Maybe. listen03/15/12 Janelle Irwin
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Tampa City Council is considering an ordinance that would loosen regulations on keeping chickens in backyards. At a regular meeting this morning, residents spoke on both sides of the argument.
Amanda Matthews supports relaxing regulations on backyard chicken ownership.
“They’re a great source of more nutritious and humanely produced eggs. And they’re a great opportunity to teach our children where their food comes from, responsibility and stewardship.”
The measure before Tampa council members could reduce the 200-foot rule. It requires chicken owners to keep their birds at least that far from their neighbor. But that idea doesn’t sit well with Pete Johnson who asked council members to consider an ordinance with stronger regulations.
“They do have diseases. They do spread the West Nile disease. They do spread mites; all sorts of problems. Being an HIV patient, I am very, very careful of this type of situation and I do feel that it is a public health situation.”
Morris Flood considers himself something of an expert on chickens. He said claims that free range chickens present a health risk are unwarranted.
“Loose chickens would have less chance of being an enemy than caged chickens because they’ve got thousands of chickens in buildings. And you go in there and you’ve got to use a mask, you can’t work, feathers have dust and get in your lungs, gives you lung cancer.”
Though Tampa currently has laws in place that make it difficult for homeowners with small backyards to own chickens – most of the homes in the city – they also have a tendency to look the other way. The code is only enforced if a complaint is made. That’s exactly what happened to John Rivera, who was told to get rid of the chickens by code enforcement. He misses his chickens.
“And that kind of left us in a situation where we had to give up our children, our friends because we don’t have children together. All we really have is our chickens, our dog and our cat and a little turtle. These guys would give you joy in the morning because you know they got up at a certain time and they depended on you to open the gates so they could get inside to their roost – and roost. They produced good eggs for you and they were friendly. They didn’t destroy anything; they didn’t cause any harm. And they didn’t go out into anyone’s yard; never were loose. None of my neighbors ever complained about them.”
Council members did not vote on the measure after hearing from a handful of speakers. Instead, the matter will be taken up at a workshop on April 26. Public comment will be accepted at that meeting.