Wausau ready for backyard chickens


The bees did the chickens a favor. Wausau’s passage of a 2014 ordinance allowing beekeepers to operate in the city apparently loosened attitudes about animals in an urban setting, and helped pave the way for allowing backyard chickens, says Alderman Pat Peckham.

The Public Health & Safety Committee on Monday night recommended the city council approve an ordinance allowing residents to keep up to four chickens on their property. The proposed ordinance will need to pass city council.

Of course, not everyone who wants to raise chickens would be able to. You’d need a permit, and there are many stipulations, including: a chicken coop setback of 10 feet from property lines; adhering to the established size for a chicken coop; not selling eggs; no roosters (because they’re noisy); and a minimum lot size.

Before entertaining this ordinance, city staff looked at other cities in Wisconsin that allowed urban chickens in recent years and found those communities weren’t having any issues. More than a dozen cities in the state have legalized urban chickens.

Considering how many people were against urban chickens when Wausau entertained the idea in 2013, committee chair Lisa Rasmussen said she was surprised to hear that other municipalities aren’t experiencing problems.

“When we talked about this the first time, for every one person who liked it, there were three that didn’t, and they were very vocal,” Rasmussen said. “I fully expected neighborhood groups to react in a negative way to announcing this.”