Which came first? The chickens or the law? The answer: the chickens.
Acknowledging many DeBaryites already have backyard chickens, the City Council on Aug. 17 took the first step toward legalizing the popular form of urban farming.
“I’m a city girl, and this is like a dream come true,” Annie Lyon said, after the council tentatively approved an ordinance allowing chickens on larger residential lots.
Lyon, who said she moved to DeBary from New York City, said she has kept chickens on her property for about 18 years.
A second reading and final vote on the measure to legalize chicken-keeping will probably be scheduled in September.
DeBary’s decision to permit chickens as pets and as a source of fresh eggs — and even as a delectable finger-licking-good meal — came after Mayor Karen Chasez and her colleagues conceded some of their constituents were already actually violating the city’s current law.
Seeing surrounding cities — including Deltona and even Winter Park — now allow chickens in some residential areas, DeBary’s leaders agreed earlier this year to take a fresh look at backyard chickens.
A June 29 workshop ended with a consensus in favor of scratching out an ordinance to allow residents with larger-than-standard lots to keep some chickens for their own use, but not as a business. The proposed law, as drafted, had a few changes before the City Council passed it unanimously.
In an eggshell, the main points of the ordinance are:
— People living on a minimum of 1 acre, with zoning of Rural Agricultural (RA) or Rural Residential (RR), may keep chickens.
— Chickens must be kept on the owner’s property. They may not roam free.
— No permit for keeping chickens will be required.
— There is no cap or limit on the number of chickens a person or family may keep on such lots, but the limit may be set by the size of the coop. The law will set a minimum of 3 square feet of coop space per bird.
— A chicken owner may construct a coop of less than 120 square feet without a building permit. If they wish to have a coop of 120 square feet or more, a building permit must be obtained from City Hall.
— Those desiring to have chickens on their homesteads may also have roosters, not just hens.
“If roosters are not allowed in rural areas, where are they allowed?” Jacqueline Schutt asked the council.
“I’m not opposed to the roosters,” Council Member James Pappalardo said.
— People living on lots zoned for chickens may also keep and care for ducks.
— Still outlawed in DeBary’s residential zones are other fowl, such as turkeys, pigeons, peacocks or peahens.
— Owners of chickens may sell the eggs that their birds produce, if the sales of eggs are not an ongoing business.
“If you have over two sales a year, you’re a business,” Rosamonda said, drawing on his career with the Florida Department of Revenue.
“If you have a lot of people coming to your house, it’s going to be a nuisance,” he also noted.
City Council members say the pending ordinance is the first step in a process that may be expanded, if it proves successful — meaning few, if any, complaints from neighbors. The council agreed to revisit the ordinance in a year.
“This is an ordinance that may be fine-tuned over time,” Chasez said.
“This is Phase 1,” Vice Mayor Phyllis Butlien said, adding she would favor a cap on the flocks. “If we say you can have 25 chickens and then say you can have 10 — how do you get rid of 15 chickens?”
City leaders say they do not know how many DeBaryites have chickens on their property.
“Over the last six years, we’ve had 18 chicken-related complaints,” Rosamonda said, referring to code-enforcement calls.