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Backyard chicken coops okayed by Baltimore County Council

Credit: Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press
Robert F. Bukaty/AP
Credit: Robert F. Bukaty/Associated Press

Chickens can soon come home to roost in more places in Baltimore County.

The County Council approved legislation Tuesday night that will let people in neighborhoods have backyard chicken coops.

Currently you must have at least an acre to keep chickens. This legislation lifts that restriction, but you must get a license from the county and be registered with the state agriculture department. The number of hens you can have will be limited based on the size of your yard. And you can’t have roosters.

At a recent public hearing on the legislation, Eric Rockel, the president of the Greater Timonium Community Council, feared it could lead to more rodents in neighborhoods.

“I do not have faith in my fellow citizens that they will be able to clean up adequately behind the chickens that they house,” Rockel told the council.

Not so, countered Kim Beard with the Backyard Chicken Caucus of Baltimore County.

“Chicken owners make amazing neighbors,” Beard said. “We’re really great stewards of the environment.”

The push to allow backyard chickens has been years in the making. In 2013, the council asked the planning board to review the idea. In 2015, the board came back with recommendations. Seven years later, the legislation is ready to hatch.

“As this practice grows in popularity, I’d rather have it regulated than largely outlawed but still operating in an underground manner,” said Republican Councilman David Marks, who proposed the legislation.

There are other restrictions. For instance, the chicken owner must live at the property. The legislation also spells out the size chicken coops must be.

Two of the seven council members, Republicans Wade Kach and Todd Crandell opposed the bill. Crandell said he wrestled with his chicken vote, but decided not to support it because his district, which is in Eastern Baltimore County, has a serious rodent problem.

“I just feel the bill is a step in the wrong direction and may take away some of the progress that we’ve made on the issue of rat eradication,” Crandell said.

Before the vote Tuesday night, Democrat Cathy Bevins voiced her full throated support for the legislation.

“I know that the chicken people are cluck cluck cluck cluck clucking tonight.”

The backyard chicken bill becomes law February 1.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2