BANGOR, Maine — Members of the City Council’s infrastructure committee voted Tuesday to send to the full council an ordinance amendment that would allow Bangor residents to keep up to six domestic chickens on their property with certain restrictions.
Tuesday’s discussion was a continuation of an initial conversation that began Dec. 23 after a group of residents asked the city to consider the ordinance change.
Several other communities across Maine and across the country have altered zoning restrictions to allow chickens as part of a larger movement in organic farming and individual sustainability.
Although some concerns were discussed on Tuesday — odor, noise and the potential for an increase in predatory animal activity — the infrastructure committee said the proposed ordinance change seemed fair.
“The city has a lot of different challenges, but I’m always encouraged when citizens take a strong interest in moving things forward,” Councilor Cary Weston said.
Councilor Geoff Gratwick, who has raised chickens himself in the past, also was supportive, but called the ordinance changes a work in progress.
Before the council takes up the matter at its meeting on Feb. 8, the city’s engineering, planning and code enforcement offices will work together to gather more information and perhaps make some revisions to the proposed changes. Anyone with concerns or suggestions may contact city officials at 992-4200.
Bangor now allows chickens in rural and agricultural zones, but the changes would allow up to six chickens (females only) in any residential zone. Those interested would need to buy a permit every year for $25; they would need to keep their chickens enclosed in coops that are at least 20 feet from an abutting property line; they would not be permitted to slaughter the animals on their property.
The ordinance changes also contain provisions for if or when problems arise.
One of the concerns that was brought up on Tuesday, which wasn’t discussed at the first meeting, involved rodents. Bangor’s proximity to water — namely Kenduskeag Stream and the Penobscot River — already attracts rodent activity, and rodents are attracted to chicken eggs.
Weston said he’d like to see more data from other communities about whether that has been a problem. One suggestion, he said, could be to limit the number of permits approved in the first year to better monitor the chicken population.
Councilor Hal Wheeler was less than enthusiastic about supporting the ordinance change, even though he voted to move the matter forward to full council.
“I have no doubt about the sincerity of the supporters, but what about others who may abuse this?” he said. “We could be opening a door to problems.”