Chickens could be OK in Salem
Backyard hens could be OK in residential areas of Salem, if a proposal discussed by Salem City Council in a work session April 23 passes later this summer.
Under proposed changes to to the Salem Comprehensive Plan, single-family households could keep up to six hens – no roosters – in approved coops and enclosed outdoor runs if they pay a $25 fee per year, have their hen houses inspected by an Animal Control Officer and if there is sufficient space from the next-door neighbors.
Four Salem City Council Members, with Mayor Randy Foley absent, concurred with the “Urban Agriculture” section on “Keeping of Chickens” developed by Deputy Zoning Administrator Mary Ellen Wines. She researched chicken laws in 13 other counties, town and cities in Virginia, ranging from Vinton to Alexandria and Bristol.
Her proposal allows homeowners or renters with landlord permission to keep hens for family use only, but not for selling eggs or slaughtering for sale.
Wines also interviewed three Salem residents who have backyard hens now, she said. In 2010 after some neighbors complained about hens next-door to them, Salem officials proposed a ban on chickens except in agricultural zones.
Council members and city representatives were unprepared for the feathery fallout flap that resulted. It turns out at least 17 residents, according to Wines, who live in residential districts, were quietly keeping backyard flocks. Salem City Council representatives,
City Manager Kevin Boggess and other city representatives went to a few of the homes to see how the hens were kept. Basically, city officials agreed not to do anything then, until this year’s proposed revisions to the Comprehensive Plan.
For more details, see this week’s April 26 issue of the Salem Times-Register.