Jill Bender Northport 0

City of Northport: Chicken Coops for the Soul

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Currently, the city code for Northport, AL allows its citizens to raise chickens, but under the condition that the chickens always be kept at least the length of a football field from another residence, park or place of business. (See * for this section of code.)

We, the undersigned citizens of the city of Northport, are requesting that the city code be amended to allow the healthy, sustainable and self-sufficient practice of allowing families and individuals to raise a limited number of chickens (hens only) in a clean and well-maintained enclosure that is not less than 50 feet from another dwelling, with a permit, and in accordance with outlined lot size parameters and other conditions.

As it stands, most families in Northport are prevented from fully utilizing their properties to raise a healthy, sustainable food source for themselves and their families. The section of code that states that 300 feet are required to produce eggs for individual consumption is outdated, punitive and reflects a lack of education and understanding.

The changes we are requesting would limit the number of chickens according to lot size and require a permit. In order to receive a permit,

  • The minimum lot size of the property is 10,000 square feet (.23 acres)
  • The principal use of the property is a single-family dwelling
  • The number of chickens does not exceed:
    • Four (4) on lots 10,000 to 19,999 square feet
    • Six (6) on lots 20,000 square feet or greater
  • The chickens are kept in an enclosure or fenced area such as a henhouse, chicken coop, chicken tractor, etc. at all times
  • The chicken enclosure or fenced area is a minimum of six (6) square feet per chicken
  • The covered enclosure or fenced area is a minimum of 10 feet to any property line of an adjacent property and 50 feet from neighboring dwellings, church, school, or place of business
  • The enclosures are kept in a maintained, sanitary condition
  • The chicken owner takes necessary action to reduce the attraction of predators and rodents and the potential infestation of insects and parasites
  • Roosters are prohibited

The change that we are requesting is one that would bring the city of Northport up-to-speed with other Alabama cities such as Auburn, Birmingham, Dothan, Huntsville, Jacksonville, Mobile, and Montgomery as well as other notable national cities such as Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Denver, Phoenix, Orlando, Lexington, Baton Rouge, Columbus, New York and literally hundreds of other cities across the nation.

The city of Northport should encourage practices that promote self-sufficiency and personal wellness in the same manner that government entities have historically supported and championed similar practices during times of crisis and wartime efforts. Code 1900 SECTION 14-39 as currently written is not only failing to encourage these practices, it is actively penalizing families and citizens who work, pay taxes, shop, attend school and live within the city limits.

The aforementioned cities that have modified their code to allow this practice speaks to the fact that this amendment is non-harmful, attainable, and in line with more forward-thinking and innovative communities.

In these unprecedented times of food insecurity, supply chain disruptions, skyrocketing inflation, and emphasis on health and wellness, the families and citizens of Northport are being unduly penalized by city code 1990 section 14-39.

Furthermore, code 1900 SECTION 14-39 is suspect of being non-inclusive because it requires holding large amounts of land and therefore a higher income to be allowed to participate in a practice that promotes health, wellness, and self-preservation. Moderate- and lower-income individuals in the city limits are being told to in essence “move to the country” to practice a simple and beneficial habit. This is at minimum unethical and could be construed as illegal.

The eggs produced by a small garden hen house are nutritionally superior, less expensive, and exceedingly more humane than eggs purchased at the store. The city of Northport should not be encouraging working professionals to exit the city limits in order to practice simple, healthy, harmless, and humane habits that promote self-sufficiency and improve wellbeing.

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*Current code: CODE 1990 SECTION 14-39: “It shall be unlawful and shall constitute a public nuisance for any person to keep within the city any...fowl, unless such...fowl is kept at all times at a distance of not less than 300 feet from any church, school, public building, park, public playground or other residence of another.”

** Special thanks to Kristy O'Leary for her guidance and research, and to the many residents of Northwood Lake for their encouragement and support.

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