Moberly Chickens

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MOBERLY - Joni Hollis said she has raised chickens at her home in Moberly for just over a year now with no problems, but some other town residents think she shouldn't have them.

A city ordinance states chickens are only allowed to live in city limits classified as agricultural areas, not residential areas.

Even though an ordinance is in place, Interim City Manager Tom Sanders said the city isn't really enforcing it. He said there are people though who are looking to change the ordinance.

Barb Downing spoke out against the idea at a recent city council meeting.

"I don't believe they belong in the city limits," she said. "I live in the city limits because I don't want livestock in town."

But Hollis said her chickens aren't doing anything to disturb anyone.

"Our chickens are way less smelly or loud or disturbing than anyone with a dog," Hollis said.

She said her family treats them just like you would any other pet. 

"We bought them about a year and a half ago to show our kids how to be self-sustaining," Hollis said.

She said the family keeps the chicken in a fenced in area next to its house and locks the chickens up in the coup at night. She said the chickens don't disturb any of the neighbors and most of the time people don't even realize they are there.

Sanders said Hollis isn't alone in wanting to keep chickens at home.

"Zoning currently prohibits the keeping of chickens in residential areas and so we have a request from several people wanting to retain chickens," Sanders said. "They are currently keeping chickens and want something that formally allows that."

He said he understands people have different reasons for wanting to keep chickens in residential areas.

"Some people want them for meat or for a project or 4-H and various things," Sanders said.

Hollis said her family is trying to work with the city to put a new ordinance in place. She said her family keeps chickens in their yard and gathers the eggs because it helps the children learn to be responsible and helps them eat healthier.

"Our kids love our chickens, they do," Hollis said. "We go out every couple of days and we have chicken time. We pet them, hold them, and let them eat out of our hands."

She said the family only raises hens because she doesn't believe roosters belong in residential areas. Hollis said the family clips the chickens' wings every couple of months to ensure the chickens don't fly over the fence and escape. She said if the chickens tried to fly, they would just fly in circles and go no where.

She also said the family uses the chickens to offset the cost of living. Hollis said the family gets about three or four dozen eggs a month for about five dollars.

She said she can serve her family eggs and not have to worry about where they came from.

While the Hollis family finds a benefit in raising chickens in their backyard, not everyone feels so positively about the idea.

Downing said she lived on a farm from the time she was six years old until age 21. She has now lived in the city for over 30 years, in part, she said,  because she no longer wants to have to deal with chickens running around.

Downing was one of two women who spoke out against the possibility of allowing livestock in town at the last city council meeting. She said she fears not everyone is capable of owning and maintaining chickens.

She said she doesn't want her home property value to drop just because the person next to her can't control his or her chickens.

"A home is potentially the biggest purchase you ever make," Downing said.

She said she is afraid that if chickens are allowed in the city limits then people will slowly begin to bring larger farm animals into residential areas, as well.

Downing said she believes, if there is an ordinance in place to restrict farm animals in residential areas, then it should be enforced. She said it isn't fair to enforce just sometimes.

Sanders said the ordinance is being handled on a case-by-case basis until the city can determine if it will uphold the ordinance or not.

He said the ordinance will only be enforced if a complaint is filed.

Hollis said her family has yet to have a complaint filed against them and most people don't even realize there are chickens in the backyard.

She said hopes the city can realize the importance the family has in keeping the chickens.

"If Columbia can adapt to it, if St. Louis can adapt to it, if Tucson, Arizona, can adapt to it, if Seattle, Washington, can adapt to it, Moberly, Missouri, can adapt to a few chickens," Hollis said.

But Downing said she doesn't believe Moberly has to follow the same lines as other cities.

"I know that people who are for it are gonna say, well I think Columbia allows chickens, other communities allow chickens," Downing said. "Okay that's fine but I live in Moberly and I don't want chickens in peoples' backyards."

Sanders said the city is trying to work out a plan that will be fair and make both sides of the issue happy.

"It's a difficult thing and we just have to understand whatever the council decides, they are gonna try and make the best decision for the city as a whole," Sanders said.