City ‘bawks’ at chickens

An ordinance to allow backyard chickens passed committee, but the idea has ruffled more feathers than expected


Wausau City Council postponed its decision on allowing backyard chickens in the city

A proposal to allow Wausau residents to have up to four backyard chickens within the city limits hit a snag this week after more opposition than expected surfaced.

The Wausau City Council voted 6-5 Tuesday to postpone taking action until they could hear from more residents.

The proposed ordinance unanimously had passed the Public Health and Safety Committee in May, but council president Lisa Rasmussen thought it would be prudent to get more feedback.

A number of people expressed both agreement and opposition Tuesday to the idea of allowing urban chickens in Wausau. Those in favor included 14-year-old Weston resident Sabrina Radtke, who had presented the possibility of urban chickens to the Weston Village Board. But Weston rejected the notion of changing its ordinance prohibiting chickens. “The most important reason why we should legalize urban chickens is to become more eco-friendly,” Radtke says.

City Council member Dennis Smith said the response he heard from residents was “solid negative.” Concerns about salmonella poisoning from backyard chickens abound, he says. “I’d like to find one person who is for chickens — I haven’t found one yet,” Smith says.

If approved at the next city council meeting July 18, the ordinance would allow permitted residents to keep up to four chickens on their property. There are many stipulations of the permitting process, such as a chicken coop setback of 10 feet from property lines; a minimum lot size; not selling eggs; adhering to the established size for chicken coops; and no roosters.

A number of municipalities in the state already allow urban chickens, including Madison, Stevens Point, Oshkosh and Green Bay.