FAQs about City Peeps & Keeping Chickens

What is City Peeps?

keeping chickens in the cityCity Peeps is a group of citizens promoting responsible chicken raising in Appleton, Wisconsin. We believe in working collaboratively & proactively with the City of Appleton, community organizations, local farmers and local citizens to support urban chickens. We believe that backyard chickens make wonderful pets, produce healthy sustainable food, and are a positive addition to neighborhoods. Our Facebook page currently has over 200 members, some who want to raise chickens in Appleton, some who just want to live in a city where chickens are allowed, even if they choose not to have them.

Why do you want chickens?

For a variety of reasons. Some simply for fun, friendly, educational pets. Some for healthy, great-tasting, fresh, organic eggs. Some for sustainability reasons such as local food, composting table scraps, natural ultra-rich fertilizer and natural insect control. There are many reasons.

Appleton’s ordinance language currently does not allow chickens. You are working with the City and local citizens to change that ordinance. What recommendations does City Peeps members and leaders have for a new ordinance?

  • Number of chickens: 4 (though we’d be open to the option of people applying for a special permit to keep up to 6 hens total).
  • Roosters: No, hens only.
  • Permit/permit cost: $5-15/year, and maybe an extra one-time inspection fee for a larger amount.
  • Enclosure required: Yes, chickens will need to be kept outside and in a secure enclosure. We’d be open to the idea of a building permit process (though many cities don’t do this), and also a minimum amount of square feet in the coop per bird. Enclosure would need to be outdoors, secure, and 25 feet or more from neighbor’s homes.
  • Nuisance clause: Yes. We’d also be open/encouraging of some language about people needing a minimum number of hours of chicken education (maybe 3 hours) prior to having birds, similar to education required for concealed carry guns, and certainly more than most dog or cat owners typically get.
  • Slaughter permitted: No, not within city limits.
  • Property line restrictions: 25 feet from neighbor’s home.
  • Additional considerations: feed storage must be secure from rodents. Also consider language related to allowing chickens for single homes up to 4-plex, but not for apartment complexes.

Aren’t there a lot of concerns about having chickens in the city, such as noise, smell, rodents, predators, chickens getting loose, etc.?

We’ll address each of these fears one-by-one later in this document, but in general it is important to note that these same fears are brought up in EVERY city prior to the introduction of chickens. The reality is that once cities legalize keeping chickens, there are minimal to no issues. In survey after survey with community leaders in cities of all sizes that allow chickens, these concerns simply don’t materialize. We surveyed 21 leaders from different cities in Wisconsin who have allowed chickens: 16 said that chickens have been beneficial in the community, and the other 5 said chickens have been basically neutral. None reported any significant problems, and time after time they say that dogs and cats are far more problematic.

Aren’t chickens loud?

No. Hens are fairly quiet. Roosters can make significant noise, but the proposed ordinance would not permit roosters. Typically one won’t even be able to hear the hens from 10-20 feet away. They are certainly much quieter than most dogs.

Aren’t chickens smelly?

So long as coops are kept properly aerated, and are cleaned on a regular basis, there is very little smell with just 4 hens.

What about rodents?

Two key strategies will eliminate most rodent issues: secure food, and a secure coop. Like local bird watchers who keep sunflower and other seed, chicken enthusiasts will be required to keep chicken food in secure metal containers. Coops will be designed to keep rodents out. (See the video at the end for another solution.)

How about predators?

Solar Night Eyes are an effective way to deter predators from chicken coops.

Predators, such as raccoons, owls, and foxes already exist in our community, living off natural food sources and human-made food sources. Chicken enthusiasts are highly motivated to prevent predator issues. Coop security is key. There are also inexpensive predator-deterrent products that are highly effective.

Will chickens be running all over our neighborhood?

No. Chickens will be required to be kept in secure coops, and will not be “free-range”. Other cities that have allowed chickens have had almost no issues with chickens running free. In other cities, chickens running free is far less of a problem than cats or dogs running free.

What about bird diseases? Will people be at risk?

Most any pet can transmit diseases or sicknesses to humans. Basic precautions need to be taken, such as frequent hand-washing after contacting chickens or cleaning their coops. Chickens will not be allowed to live indoors, where the possibility of disease transmission increases. Bird-related diseases and illnesses have rarely been an issue in other cities where chickens were allowed, but City Peeps still plans to work closely with the City of Appleton Health Department to ensure that we take all the necessary precautions.

What do you do with chicken droppings?

Chicken waste is extremely high in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, and thus is highly valuable fertilizer. Compared to cow manure, chicken dropping have 6x more nitrogen, 8x more phosphorous, and 3x more potassium. Many chicken owners compost their chicken waste, then use it as fertilizer. In some communities that have legalized chickens, non-chicken owners are happy to come and pick up chicken waste on a weekly basis to use as fertilizer.

What will you do with chickens once they stop laying eggs? Will you be slaughtering chickens in the city?

Most urban chicken owners consider their chickens to be pets and keep them whether or not they lay, as one would do with a dog or cat. There are also people and farms outside of the city that will take non-egg laying chickens, and there are a few operations in the region where they will professionally slaughter chickens. Killing chickens in the city will not be allowed. City Peeps will offer resources and referral for people who are wondering what to do with chickens once they stop laying eggs.

First it’s chickens, next it will be pigs and cows. These are farm animals, why should they be in the city?

This concern is raised in every city that considers legalizing keeping chickens. The reality is: in the hundreds of cities that have legalized urban chickens, there are none that have legalized urban cows.

We already pay a lot in city taxes, and our city workers are often overworked. Won’t this just add workload to our city workers, and add expenses to our already stretched budget?

In each of the Wisconsin cities we surveyed, community leaders said the fiscal and staff impact of legalizing chickens was minimal to non-existent. As with many of the other fears, they said dogs and cats have a far bigger negative impact in these two areas.

What about people who don’t follow the rules and get too many chickens, let them run free, keep them in their houses, etc.?

Those people already exist in our community, and will continue to do so with or without a chicken ordinance. City Peeps members are extremely motivated to have all community members who keep chickens be educated and do it right, so that a few “bad apples” don’t cause problems for the rest of us.

How many eggs will hens lay?

During their peak years (approximately 1-5 years old), they will typically lay from 2-6 eggs per week, depending on breed and other factors. Egg size varies by breed of hen, as does egg color and patterns (white, tan, brown, green, blue, speckled, etc.).

Do hens need a lot of space?

Poultry coops for 4 hens can fit in most any backyard. They are typically about the size of a small children’s playhouse, and often include a little fenced “run” area.

What do chickens eat?

Most anything, including most table scraps as well as many backyard bugs. Commercial chicken feed is readily available. Chickens love variety and are happy to compost your food scraps.

Can chickens live outside in the winter?

Yes, though on the coldest Wisconsin winter days, they may need an additional source of heat in their coop, such as a heating lamp. Their egg laying will slow down or stop during the winter unless they are given artificial light each day.

How can potential chicken keepers become educated about all these issues?

Educational seminars are already being offered in surrounding cities that have legalized urban chickens. City Peeps will be involved in helping to organize similar classes when chickens are legalized in Appleton.

How many people in the City of Appleton do you think will keep chickens?

Judging by numbers from other cities, if chickens are legalized in Appleton, we would expect 15-50 families will raise chickens here the first year or two, with slight increases in future years as more and more people learn about the benefits. Hundreds of more people will be positively impacted by being educated by neighbors who have chickens, learning about local food sourcing and food security and sustainability, from sharing eggs, etc. When the creative class looks for vibrant communities in which to live, cities that allow chickens is a quality of life consideration, whether or not they choose to keep chickens themselves.

So, what other cities in the area have legalized chickens?

Green Bay, Oshkosh, Allouez, Ashwaubenon, Neenah, Madison, Milwaukee, all of Pierce County, Sheboygan, Shorewood Hills, and about a dozen more communities both large and small, urban and rural. Like smoke-free workplaces and roundabouts, this is a growing trend in communities all across the country that often faces initial spirited opposition. We anticipate this trend towards urban chickens to continue as more people become interested in local food sourcing; sustainability practices; composting; fresh, organic, healthy food choices; urban gardening and all of the many other benefits that these wonderful pets offer.

Information for this FAQ sheet was obtained from interviews with leaders (Police Chiefs, Community Services Officers, Code Compliance Officers, City Clerks, Animal Control, Zoning Administrators and a Professor) in 15 Wisconsin cities that have legalized chickens; from first-hand observations & interviews with people who currently keep urban chickens in other cities; and from 2 research papers.

Ingenious Chicken Feeder

For those people concerned about restricting access to chicken feed from rats and mice take a look at this very ingenious chicken feeder. This very simple design allows the chicken to step on a platform, lift a door, and gain access to the feed. This is just one solution to keeping rodents out of chicken feed within the coop.

Metal versions of this design are available from many sources, too. You can also search for terms like “automatic chicken feeder” or “treadle chicken feeder” to find your own sources. Here’s one from Grandpa’s Feeders: http://www.grandpasfeeders.com/products/standard-chicken-feeder.

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Pro-Chicken Ad from 1918

Shannon forwarded this ad to me earlier today. Interesting how the US government was promoting backyard chicken keeping at one time. “In time of peace a profitable recreation. In time of war a patriotic duty.”