City residents clucking over chickens as pets

NASHUA – City residents want chickens – and not the kind one might expect to get at a barbecue.

According to Alderwoman at Large Shoshanna Kelly, the city’s Planning Department frequently receives calls regarding whether people can own live chickens. Right now, except for in zoning districts R-40 and R-30, they cannot.

However, after speaking with Nashuans, Kelly drafted an ordinance “amending the land use code by adding provisions regarding urban chickens.”

“There’s a trend right now where people are really enjoying getting their hands in the dirt and they’re more conscious of where their food is coming from,” Kelly said.

Urban chickens have become more popular in recent years. Some city dwellers keep them as pets, while using them as a form of lawn care and enjoying fresh eggs in the morning.

Some city residents even put diapers on their chickens.

“It is the intent … to allow for the keeping of domestic female chickens on a lot for the sole use and enjoyment of the residents of the lot on which such chickens are kept, while at the same time, preserving the quality of life of the surrounding neighborhood by not allowing chickens to be kept in a number of in a manner that could create a nuisance,” the ordinance states.

No more than six hens may be allowed on a lot, while roosters are prohibited. A coop must also be provided for housing the chickens.

Despite the old joke, the chickens are quite literally not allowed to cross the road, as “no chicken … shall be permitted to go at large” in any public place within the city, according to the ordinance.

Moreover, chicken breeding, the sale of eggs, or any other commercial activity related to the chickens would be prohibited, according to the ordinance.

“The intent is for the chickens to be for the sole enjoyment of the people who live on the land,” Kelly said.

So far, Kelly said most of the testimony she has heard at public hearings and via email has been in favor of the ordinance.

One woman, Kelly said, talked about how having chickens can help foster a sense of community, whether in specific neighborhoods, or in Nashua as a whole. This, ultimately, is one of the goals of the ordinance.

There are still plenty of steps before the ordinance becomes law, such as consideration by the city’s Zoning Board in October, then back to hearings and to the full Board of Aldermen. However, Kelly hopes it will be ready by spring when people will be looking to add chickens to the family.

The drafted ordinance can be found at www.nashuanh.gov, or at www.nashuanh.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/5834.

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.