City residents cackle about proposed domesticated chicken ordinance

NASHUA – Domesticated chickens are a hot topic among Nashua residents, Alderwoman Shoshanna Kelly said and it has many seeking the scoop on coops and what their approval for use within city limits would mean.

Kelly said a proposed Urban Chicken Ordinance is the No. 1 question being fielded from residents calling in to the city’s Community Development Department. With such a large interest from the community in urban chickens, the ordinance intended to introduce the ability for Nashua residents to raise domestic chickens on their properties recently advanced from the Planning Board to the Planning Economic Development Committee.

Now, the committee has furthered the discussion, focusing on some proposed amendments to the ordinance. Though no action has been taken at this time, the amendments had suggested allowing fewer chickens per residence, increasing the minimum amount of acreage residents would need to own urban chickens, and implementing a sunset clause.

The purpose of the Urban Chicken Ordinance is to permit residents to keep female chickens on their property inside city limits. What remains up for debate is how to keep domesticated chickens from becoming a nuisance to neighbors and the community. While the ordinance is being reviewed, Kelly said the goal is to permit as many residents who want to own chickens the opportunity to do so, without adding too many restrictions.

“When we determined how many chickens, we thought about how many eggs a chicken (lays),” Kelly said, “and how many eggs that would allow a family to have.”

She said, using a base size of four family members, the ordinance takes into account how many eggs a family of that size would likely consume. The ordinance currently states up to six adult chickens may be kept on a lot, and adult male – or crowing male chickens, also known as roosters – are prohibited.

The committee decided increasing the required acreage to be approved for urban chickens to 1 or 1.5 acres would prevent too many homes from owning urban chickens. As it reads now, the ordinance would allow approximately 26,000 residences to keep domesticated chickens. An amendment to require a minimum of at least 1 acre would drop the number of eligible residences to 17,000.

Under the proposed ordinance, chickens may not run free and a coop would be required. There are different floor space requirements for the coop, depending upon whether a run is included with the structure. Similar to regulations for yard sheds, coops may not exceed 8 feet in height. They also must be enclosed and any coup or run located in side or rear yards and in compliance with setbacks of the zone.

A copy of the ordinance is available in its entirety at https://www.nashuanh.gov/ArchiveCenter/ViewFile/Item/5834.

With regard to adding a sunset clause, the ordinance would be put into effect upon passing. Then, when the clause ends in December, the ordinance would be up for amendment, appeal or repeal.

Kelly said the committee decided against such a clause and will revisit discussion about the ordinance at the committee’s Nov. 14 meeting.