My journey to change Chicken Laws in Citrus Heights, Ca ~ and keep my flock

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances (and how to change' started by lizanne, Feb 18, 2014.

  1. lizanne

    lizanne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    In the city of Citrus Heights, CA the current city code says that (basically) in the city you can only have chickens (up to 10) if your lot is over 10,000 square feet. Mine is a little short of this, and on Feb 3rd I received a code violation notice. It said that I had until Feb 10th (less than 7 days), to correct the violation and "remove" my chickens. I called the code enforcement officer the next day. She informed me that they received a complaint, where the (anonymous caller stated that we had chickens and a rooster, and we weren't supposed to have them. --We later figured out that it was a neighbor (who used to be friendly with my husband) that called in relational for a personal issue between herself and my husband. She hasn't said this, but spoke with some other neighbors about it.-- The code enforcement officer gave me an extension (without a time limit)for now. I agreed to cut down my flock a little and get rid of Melvin (my one rooster). Officer Buck also told me the City Planning board was working with the City Council to change the code. She gave me the phone number of the lady in charge of the Project. When I called the planning board they informed me that they brought it up to the City Council, but it wasn't really a priority for them. She told me they are ready to work on it if/when the City Council takes and interest. So I'm going to the Council meeting to (hopefully) convince them that this is something important, and worth their time. They allow chickens (up to 10 in lots over 10,000 sq feet) without any kind of fees or permits, so I'm hoping that they either change the code or allow me an exemption.

    On Thursday (2/13) I attended the city council meeting and read the letter below to the city council (I had also email the letter to the mayor, all the city council members, the code enforcement officer and dept, and the city planning board.)

    To whom it may concern,
    My name is Elizabeth S. I am a wife, a mother, a Federal Employee, a Citrus Heights native, a homeowner, a gardener, and a chicken owner. I grew up in Citrus Heights and my parents bought their first home here in 1988. I moved back in 2010, when my husband and I bought our first home in the Chase neighborhood. We love it here, but in 2011 my husband lost his job, and since then has had a hard time finding full time employment. Self sufficiency has always been important to us, but especially now. Money is really tight, and gardening and chicken keeping really help stretch out our budget. I grow a huge garden every year. I grow enough to be able to share with my neighbors, and can the extra’s to use later in the year.

    Shortly after we bought our house, we decided we would like to keep a few chickens, and have fresh eggs. This wasn’t something we took on lightly. We have a large back yard, but it is a little under the 10,000 square feet required to keep livestock under 75 pounds. We researched chicken keeping, and spoke with our neighbors, to see if they had any issue with our chicken keeping. None of them did, and we asked them to let us know if it became a problem for them. We love our chickens. I am able to feed them kitchen scraps and left over veggies from my garden to help keep down feed costs. When money is really tight I can bake bread for less than $.50 a loaf, and have scrambled eggs and toast for dinner, or during summer, omelets with veggies from the garden.
    I received a Code Violation Notice on February 3rd, saying that I was in violation of the City animal code, and I could not keep chickens. I was given a week to correct the violation. I Spoke with Officer Buck, and let her know that I needed an extension, and that I would be filing an appeal to the city code.

    Section 8-47 of the Citrus Heights city code currently reads:
    ii. Small animal keeping. The minimum site area for the noncommercial, not-for-profit, keeping of small animals, of at least six months of age with a weight of less than 75 pounds at maturity, other than pets, as an incidental use, shall be 10,000 square feet; except that roosters shall be allowed only on a site of 20,000 square feet or larger, or within an RD-1 or RD-2 zoning district.

    In the code chicken keeping is put in the same area as animals up to 75 pounds. The average chicken weighs about 6 pounds. I’m sure anyone can see there is a huge difference between keeping 10 small goats, or pigs, (about 750 pounds of animals) and keeping a coop with 10 chickens (about 60 pounds of animals). While my yard is a little short (only by a couple hundred square feet) my neighbors on both sides have yards large enough to keep livestock under 75 pounds.
    The images below are of my property lines. The area outlined in red is the area I keep my chickens in. There is a fence in front (towards the street), a fence separating my neighbors property from my own, and a fence in back between my “chicken yard”, and the rest of the backyard. The coop is in the very middle. The space for my chickens is about 975 square feet. With the fencing no one can see them, and they stay contained in that area.
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I would propose a change in the City Code, to enable people to keep chickens in smaller yards. 10,000 square feet is a huge area for 10 chickens. Even 5,000 would be plenty of space for them.
    From Backyard Poultry magazine (Article By Byron Parker,Randall Burkey Company,Texas) :
    Because chickens spend most of their active time outside of the chicken coop, generally 2 – 3 square feet per chicken is sufficient space. Remember, you will need to provide space to roost at night and space for the nesting boxes. If you plan on keeping them cooped up full-time then 8 – 10 square feet per chicken would do, counting the outside run. In this case, more is always better. If you are planning on buying or building a mobile chicken coop, space requirement is minimized because it offers you the ability to frequently move the coop and chickens onto fresh ground.
    The City of Roseville allows up to 10 chickens, ducks, or pigeons, regardless of lot size.
    Section 7.36.010 Domestic fowl--Restrictions.
    Except upon premises zoned for agricultural purposes pursuant to the zoning ordinance, no person shall keep any goose or turkey, or more than ten, whether singly or in combination, of the following: ducks, chickens, or pigeons. (Ord. 1293 § 1 (part), 1975: prior code § 3.90.)
    The city of Davis allows up to 6 Chickens regardless of lot size.
    5.01.020 Keeping of chickens, pigeons or rabbits.
    It is unlawful for any person to keep or maintain within the city, or permit to be kept or maintained upon land belonging to such person, any chickens, pigeons or rabbits except as follows:A total of not more than six chicken hens or six pigeons or a combination of chicken hens and pigeons not to exceed the number of six, or a total of not more than six rabbits may be kept and maintained in a clean and sanitary pen or structure, no part of which shall be located less than forty feet from any residence, other than a residence owned and occupied by the person owning or in possession of such animals; and, provided further, that the keeping of such animals shall not create a health or nuisance problem. (Code § 8-2.102)

    As a city that was founded on self sufficiency, you would think that we would encourage this in our community. I know of many people currently keeping chickens “illegally”, who would love to see this code changed. You don’t have many people coming forward, because of the fear that if they speak up they will be forced to get rid of their flocks. You may not see the importance of changing the code, but many of your constituents feel it is very important. I am asking you to change the City Code, and allow people like me to own chickens without the fear of violating the law. Encourage and give people the tools to be able to take care of themselves and their families as they see fit.

    Thank you for your consideration,
    Elizabeth
     
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2014
  2. lizanne

    lizanne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Before I went to the council meeting I made copies of my letter with my picture, and they were handed out to the council members, and put in the record of the meeting. Right after I read my letter in the meeting to the council, one of the council members stated that the council has no issue looking into changing the code. He said it has come up many times, but it just wasn't really a priority at the time, so they let it go. He told me they would put it on their calendar to talk about. After it was over the Head of code enforcement (who happened to be at the meeting) introduced himself, and we were able to have quite a long conversation about it. He received my email, and told me that technically at this point, (from his perspective) he has to follow the code until the city council tells him otherwise. He said he understands my position, and suggested that I find a temporary place for them until the re-inspection (that they are required to do) is done, and this kind of blows over. I told him that I would really like to avoid even temporarily re-homing them, and he said (kind of cryptically) to talk to Officer Leah Buck (the officer who originally wrote the violation), and see what we can work out. I really hope the City Council makes it a priority. [​IMG]
     
  3. willowandthyme

    willowandthyme Out Of The Brooder

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    Feb 10, 2014
    ontario
    good luck!
     
  4. lizanne

    lizanne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I got an email from the Citrus Heights City planner today. It said:

    "Elizabeth,

    I just wanted to let you know that on April 10th we will be asking the City Council if they would like staff to review the way we currently regulate chicken keeping vs the popular trend of backyard chickens. It takes time for regulations and ordinances to be changed but this will be the first step in moving the process forward."

    I'm going to email back to see if I can attend this meeting. I'm so happy this is moving forward!!
     
  5. mnmhatfield

    mnmhatfield New Egg

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    Elizabeth,

    You are amazing! Thank you for fighting for our right to chickens in Citrus Heights! My husband and I would love to have two little hens as pets. We both grew up with chickens as a source of eggs and pets. Our lot is a little under 10,000', also. Keep up the good work.

    Thank you again!
    Marian
     
  6. lizanne

    lizanne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for the support!!! [​IMG] It's been a little scary (I'm not the kind of person that normally does things like this), but hopefully they will change the code. I'm down to 7 hens at this point, and my chicken yard seems really empty. I did hatch a bunch of chicks though, so I'll have more hens ready when the code gets updated. I'll definitely keep this updated. I know where you can get some hens, when this all get figured out. [​IMG]
     
  7. divethomas

    divethomas New Egg

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    Mar 10, 2014
    Hi Elizabeth,
    I am glad you are doing this. I also fit the less than 10,000 sq.ft. lot size and we are looking at getting some hens in Citrus Heights. We are trying to live a more sustainable friendly lifestyle by growing our own vegetables and would like have fresh eggs from our own chickens instead of store bought ones. I will be keeping track of this thread. Let me know how I can help.
    Thank you,
    David
     
  8. jrtmouse

    jrtmouse New Egg

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    Elizabeth,
    We, too, live in city of Citrus Heights. In the four years we've lived within the city limits, we've found CH to be greedy and unreasonable in many ways, but that's for a different forum.

    We're looking to start up with chickens in our backyard and fortunately we're well over the 10k required. However, I would like to support you and your cause in any way I can. If you need any petitions signed or other support, let me know.

    I can appreciate your cause and frustration. Good luck! I'm going to stay tuned for the verdict coming in April.
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2014
  9. lizanne

    lizanne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The next Citrus Heights City council meeting is Thursday:

    Date/Time: 4/10/2014 7:00 p.m.
    Location: City Council Chambers
    7117 Greenback Lane
    Citrus Heights, California 95621

    At this meeting the City Planning department will be asking the council if they would like to look into changing the current city chicken code (along with several other codes). This is the first step in changing the current code. This is a meeting that anyone can attend. I will make sure to be there.

    Here is the agenda for the City Council meeting:

    http://citrusheights.net/docs/4-10-14_council_agenda_packet.pdf

    We are item #12. The second to the last item.

    "12. SUBJECT: Direction on Possible Update to the Zoning Code Regarding Allowing Backyard
    Chickens
    STAFF REPORT: Community/Economic Development Department"
     
  10. lizanne

    lizanne Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I've listed the emails of the Mayor and City Council members below. It would be great if everyone could take a couple minutes to send them an email, asking them to update the Zoning Code to allow more people to have backyard chickens. If you would rather call or fax (they only give a general number, not a direct line) the numbers are (916) 725-2448 (phone) or (916) 725-5799 (fax)

    Mayor -- Mel Turner -- [email protected]

    Vice Mayor -- Sue Frost -- [email protected]

    Council Member -- Jeannie Bruins -- [email protected]

    Council Member -- Jeff Slowey -- [email protected]

    Council Member -- Steve Miller -- [email protected]
     

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