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Chicken as pets debate returns to Manchester

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 15. 2014 10:35PM

MANCHESTER — Aldermen are slated to hold a public hearing Tuesday on a proposed zoning ordinance amendment creating a new category for keeping chickens as pets.

The public hearing is scheduled to get underway immediately following a hearing on new permit fees at 5:45 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers on the third floor of City Hall. 

In March, the aldermen’s Committee on Administration approved a proposal that would allow residents who live on parcels a half-acre or larger to have up to six hens. Residents living on smaller lots are required to seek a variance from the city Zoning Board.

Most lots in Manchester are smaller than a half-acre, or 21,780 square feet. But the approved proposal, unlike previous plans, does allow for the keeping of chickens at multi-family properties, with the consent of the owner.

Under the proposed zoning amendment, the keeping of chickens would be allowed under the R-S, R-1A, R-1B, R-2, R-SM, and R-3 zoning districts. Chickens must be kept only for personal use, and the owner must be a resident of the dwelling on the lot where they are kept. The ordinance prohibits the selling of eggs produced by the chickens or engaging in chicken breeding, slaughtering, or any other commercial activity related to the keeping of chickens.

The ordinance up for review Tuesday night requires that all hens be kept within structures and fenced areas, and not allowed to roam free. The structure for the hens must be located in side or rear yards, and set back a minimum of 20 feet from property lines. The henhouses must be kept in a neat and sanitary condition, and provide a minimum of three square feet per hen.

The structure must also be located on a permeable surface that prevents waste runoff. All stored manure will be composted in a fully enclosed structure, with no more than three cubic feet of manure stored on the lot. Any manure not used for composting or fertilizing must be removed from the property.

When the city’s Planning Department drew up an ordinance more than 1 1/2 years ago, it proposed allowing up to six hens at single-family houses with lot sizes of at least 7,500 square feet — a much smaller size than what the committee adopted in March. A majority on the administration committee rejected the Planning Department’s original proposal, but the aldermen later voted to bring the idea back.

The draft ordinance was written after city officials examined ordinances in Dover, Concord, Bedford, Derry, Nashua, Portsmouth and cities outside New Hampshire, that have adopted language regulating the keeping of chickens.

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