Kenai residents who want to raise backyard chickens will have to apply for a conditional use permit for now, as Kenai City Council members chose Wednesday to postpone an ordinance that would open the doors for chicken ownership in city limits.
Council member Terry Bookey made a motion to refer the ordinance to the Planning and Zoning Commission, so the public and the commission could refine it. The council unanimously passed the motion.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will present their work on the ordinance in a March 6 council meeting.
Problems with bears were the prominent concern of those speaking against the ordinance.
“What’s the city going to do when the chickens attract bears?” said Kenai resident Clifford Smith, 58.
Chickens were the top cause for defense of life and property brown bear killings this year on the Peninsula, said Jeff Selinger, Kenai area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Electric fences, however, have proven “very successful” at deterring brown bears, he said.
Council member Tim Navarre opposed to the ordinance. He said residents could get chickens without notifying their neighbors if the ordinance passed, and that would cause conflict.
“The city should monitor the situation instead of making it neighbor against neighbor,” he said.
Council member Ryan Marquis said residents need to understand lot-size limitations, where they can house chickens on their property and how to properly manage electric fencing if they chose to use it.
“I think there needs to be a lot of education before we approve this and open it up,” he said.
He said the work sessions the council hosted last year for beekeeping were productive, and the chicken ordinance should follow the same process.
“We ended up with an ordinance that was a lot better than it would have been if we just adopted what we started with,” he said.
Heidi Chay said chickens have multiple benefits. She lives on a one-acre lot where chicken ownership is legal, and her chickens are a source of local food, fertilize the garden, eat garden pests and reduce the amount of garbage she has to bring to the landfill.
“I think we need to do what we can to improve our local food production,” she said.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org