October 04, 2023

Chicken talk returns to council

At the May 16 meeting of the Osceola City Council, the council approved 4-0 suspending the enforcement of the urban chicken ordinance for 90 days with direction for city staff to look at reworking and redefining chapter 55.17, Urban Chickens, with the possibility for a council work session; councilman Doug Gay was absent.

Osceola City Administrator Ty Wheeler informed council of a request that had come in about 4H projects involving chickens for those 4H’ers who live within Osceola city limits.

The city ordinance, ‘Urban Chickens,’ which can be found in chapter 55.17, permits up to six laying hens but no roosters per property. The request for 4H projects would be to allow more than the six chicken limit per property.

In late 2013, the city council was approached about amending Osceola’s ordinance prohibiting livestock in town to allow for chickens. At the time, the ordinance change suggestion was to allow a small number of egg laying hens at residential properties, subject to a series of rules and regulations. The ordinance went through the public hearing phase, but failed to pass council approval.

In 2018, the urban chicken ordinance came back to the council, and was passed in July 2018.

Increase in numbers

Bobbie Cook, member of the Clarke County Fair Board and superintendent of the rabbit and poultry barn, spoke to the council about the benefits of 4-H, and how the poultry division has grown over the year.

Last year, there were more than 140 birds at the fair, shown mainly by those kids who live in town.

4-H’ers can bring 16 birds to the county fair, not counting breeding pairs, and classes can include: chickens, guineas, quail, pheasant, turkey, duck, goose, dove, pigeon and more.

Cook explained that all of the 4-H participants are held to a code of ethics and a high standard of animal husbandry. The poultry must be clean, well kept and cared for, as they cannot be aggressive when shown to judges. All poultry are tested for avian flu.

Mayor Thomas Kedley proposed to the council the creation of a waiver system, where 4H kids who wished to raise chickens, or other poultry, would come to city hall and apply for a waiver to be allowed to keep those 4-H projects during the 4-H time. A deposit would be paid and at the of the waiver period - such as at the end of the county fair - the deposit could be returned. At that time, the city’s code enforcement officer would go to the residence to make sure that the birds were no longer there.

The waiver would only be for those kids with 4H projects.


Councilman Dan Hooper expressed concern about having multiple 4H kids at one residence with up to 16 poultry each. Councilmen Tom Bahls and Jose Vargas shared similar thoughts that there needed to be some maximum number set per property.

Cook said that she was in agreement with a waiver system, but instead of setting a specific limit on the number, she would rather communicate with the council as to each individual project’s needs, citing city kids’ lack of access to farmland to raise a larger number of poultry.

“When the kid doesn’t have access to have that, I’d like to make allowances for them to be able to do that,” said Cook.

4H members and parents also spoke to council about their 4H experiences, and the desire to see some sort of accommodation for their projects.

“If you’re talking about a season, February to whatever where you’re waiving the number, that’s an easier thing for me to swallow,” said Councilman at large Dr. George Fotiadis.

An area Fotiadis found hesitation with was with those projects with more than six chickens that may last longer than fair season. He said that is the council were to allow that for some, why not for all. Fotiadis said it also drew into question the purpose of having an ordinance in the first place if they were going to be handing out waivers.

Candra Brooks

A native of rural Union County, Candra holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Simpson College and an Associate's Degree in Accounting from SWCC. She has been at the Osceola newspaper since October 2013, working as office manager before transitioning to the newsroom in spring 2022.