Clayton Twp. could make another run at amending chicken ordinance

CLAYTON TWP. — The Clayton Township Board of Trustees is revisiting a twice-failed effort to revise a township ordinance that prohibits chickens on properties smaller than 10 acres.

Trustee Tammy Kapraun introduced the idea at the Thursday, Sept. 10, board meeting. She said residents have asked that the 1998 ordinance be amended.

Some residents already keep chickens on smaller properties, despite being in violation, she said, adding that she believes one acre is adequate.

“People are trying to be independent and self-sufficient,” Kapraun said. “They should have options.”

Township officials attempted to give residents more options for keeping small farm animals in 2015 and again in 2017, and it didn’t go over well.

“We went through this five years ago,” said Clerk Dennis Milem. “It was probably one of the most volatile meetings … it was a complete catastrophe. We couldn’t figure it out; it was a mess.”

In 2015, residents packed the township hall, objecting to proposed ordinance amendments that would allow livestock on smaller properties. The Planning Commission worked for about a year before recommending that the Board of Trustees adopt the amendments.

Despite assurances from the board that the changes did not affect properties of 10 acres or more, the residents – many of whom said they owned more than 10 acres – were not convinced that it wasn’t a ploy to regulate livestock on large farms. They ultimately were successful in swaying the members of the township board.

In 2017, the township board asked the Planning Commission to reconsider the issue, but the commissioners tossed it back to the Board of Trustees, where it just sort of faded.

Now, the township board has other concerns.

“If you reduce it to one acre, there are a lot of people with one acre,” said Trustee Mike Crockett. “I don’t know if the neighbors will like it.”

“There are people who have told me that if a chicken gets out … if it’s in their yard, it’s dinner,” said Milem. “That’s not a hill I want to die on, but there are people who will.”

Milem said he will ask that the Planning Commission work on “some sort of outline” to bring to the Board of Trustees.

“I’m just telling you, it’s not going to be an easy project,” he said.

He added that, if the ordinance changes, he would like some assurance that it will be enforced.

“I’m not going to have a subdivision turned into a barnyard,” he said.

For now, township officials will consult with officials in nearby communities that have successfully enacted similar ordinances, and report back to the full board.