June 22, 2018
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Bangor City Council considers urban chickens

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — There is a movement of fowl proportions making its way through the state. It landed on Bangor’s doorstep this week.

In recent weeks, several city residents have expressed interest in raising backyard chickens. It’s a trend that has swept the state as more and more people turn to organic farming and individual sustainability.

Only Bangor residents who live in zones designated as rural or agricultural can keep chickens. An ordinance change considered by Bangor city councilors this week would allow chickens in other residential areas, but with certain restrictions.

“This is not new. It has worked in many other places,” resident Brent Hall told councilors at an infrastructure committee meeting Tuesday.

Resident Michael Andrews agreed and said Bangor can do more to blend urban and rural lifestyles.

“I lived in Vermont for 10 years and there is great response there for this,” he said.

Code Enforcement Officer Dan Wellington and City Solicitor Norman Heitmann drafted an ordinance amendment for consideration that would allow up to six chickens in residential areas. The change would allow only hens (no roosters) and the animals would be penned. Additional restrictions address noise and sanitary concerns, although Wellington said it’s important to note that those elements are subjective.

“I think if chickens are allowed and responsible people take advantage, it could work,” Wellington said. “I also think it could create problems in a hurry.”

Members of the infrastructure committee listened to several people speak in favor of the changes. No one spoke in opposition.

In the interest of fairness, committee chairwoman Susan Hawes said the committee would revisit the discussion at its next meeting in the new year to give more people a chance to weigh in. Any changes would require approval by the full City Council.

Some other Maine communities, including Portland, South Portland and, most recently, Orono, have passed ordinance changes to allow backyard chickens. Proponents say the benefits include cheap meat and fresh eggs, and that chickens also help with pest control for gardens. Some of the drawbacks, which Wellington and others mentioned, include noise and odor problems.

Councilor Geoff Gratwick, who said he has raised chickens in the past, said the city has work to do but he was happy to begin the discussion.

“If we’re going to do it, Bangor should have the best chicken ordinance around,” he said.

More information about the proposed ordinance change may be obtained at Bangor City Hall or by calling 992-4200.

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