The Kenai Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously voted down an ordinance that seeks to allow Kenai residents to raise chickens within city limits at a Wednesday work session.
“We’ve had testimony from (the Alaska Department of) Fish and Game and from other neighbors that have said this is going to bring in bears,” said Commissioner Clifford Smith, who proposed the motion to vote down the ordinance.
Smith said also that the city already has a conditional use permitting process for those wishing to own chickens to apply through. He said that process should be used for residents to obtain chickens.
“If it’s not broken, why fix it?” he said.
The commission’s decision will go to the Kenai City Council as a recommendation for final action. In a Nov. 21 council meeting, council members agreed the ordinance, as was proposed, needed refining. The council will review the commission’s recommendations at a March 6 meeting.
The chicken ordinance — Ordinance 2656-2012 — would allow those living within Kenai city limits to raise no more than 12 chickens on their properties for non-commercial uses.
In the Nov. 21 council meeting, some residents said they did not want the ordinance to pass. Many said the chickens would attract bears, and others said coops would pop up in yards without the neighbors being dutifully warned.
Jeff Selinger, a Soldotna-based Fish and Game wildlife biologist, said chickens were the number one cause for defense of life and property brown bear killings on the Peninsula in 2012. And since Anchorage instituted laws allowing chicken ownership in city limits, there has been a rise in bear activity, said David Battle, Anchorage-based assistant area biologist.
“Chickens are definitely a bear attractant,” he said.
Battle said the bears first smell the feed scattered about the coops. Then they investigate and discover the chickens.
While electric fences are effective in keeping the bears from the chickens, the coop still brings bears to the neighborhood, Battle said.
Other residents, however, see the chickens as an asset, not a danger.
While no residents came to the Wednesday commission work session to defend the ordinance, Hedi Chay, district manager for the Kenai Soil & Water Conservation District, said in the November council meeting that chickens have many benefits. They produce fertilizer for gardens, eat garden pests, eat food waste and provide food locally, she said.
Kenai resident Nancy Schrag said at the November meeting that having a local food source is important.
“Having resources at hand is important, and food is a resource,” she said.
Dan Schwartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.