Small farm animals may soon get homes with urban views in Lacey, Tumwater

Lacey and Tumwater may soon allow urban residents to own chickens and other small farm animals.

Both cities are considering changes to allow chickens, miniature goats and beehives in their urban areas. In Lacey, the planning commission took public comment this week and will likely send a draft ordinance to the City Council next month. The Tumwater City Council held a public hearing the same night and will discuss the matter in June during its next meeting. Olympia already allows a limited number of chickens per residential lot.

The urban agriculture movement is growing in the region, and Lacey officials decided it was time to address outdated codes that don’t provide much guidance on farm animal ownership in town, said Dave Burns, principal planner for the city.

Here’s what is being proposed for chickens. Roosters are prohibited in both ordinances, as they are in Olympia.

 • Lacey: For single-family homes on an urban lot, one chicken would be allowed for each 1,000 square feet of lot area, up to a total of 10 chickens.

 • Tumwater: For lots that are 10,890 square feet or smaller, the ordinance would allow five chickens; for lots of 10,890 square feet to 1 acre, nine chickens would be permitted; for 1 acre or larger, 10 chickens would be allowed, plus one chicken for each additional 1,000 square feet.

Each proposal includes other animals. Lacey’s proposed ordinance includes miniature goats, bees and rabbits. Tumwater is considering bees, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, miniature goats and pot bellied pigs.

Kathy Wright and her family, who live off 21st Avenue near Ruddell Road in Lacey, want to buy four chickens to have as pets and to produce eggs. She said that she would prefer knowing where her eggs come from and that she thinks fresh eggs taste better.

“Every time when we were on a trip out to the county, we’d always stop to get fresh eggs,” she said.

She said the hen coop would be in a corner of the yard where it would least bother neighbors.

In Lacey, the laws regulating chickens date back to the 1980s and require at least one acre of land to own chickens.

Burns said he can recall only one complaint in the past 20 years – and that was because a man had chickens living on his patio in an apartment complex.

“The only complaints we usually get is when a person has a rooster,” Burns said.

In Olympia, law stipulates that residents can have no more than three pets per dwelling unit, including chickens.

Olympia resident Halli Winstead, 24, has raised chickens on her property in west Olympia since last year; she said the decision to keep chickens comes down to wanting fresh food that she raises herself. Between the vegetable garden and the hens, Winstead, her male partner and 2-year-old son are living off the earth as much as possible.

They move their home-made coop and electric fence occasionally to keep their yard presentable. And while some might classify chickens as pets, her hens don’t have names and will become the filling for enchiladas and chicken pot pies once their egg-laying days are over, she said.

Winstead said she hasn’t received any complaints from neighbors.

“Chickens are pretty easy,” she said.

But while her neighbors may not have complained, Olympia code enforcement officer Chris Grabowski said it’s not uncommon to get calls about chickens.

“We get complaints all the time,” he said, estimating that nearly half of the 15 pet complaint calls in 2010 were chicken related.

Complaints boil down to someone having too many hens or having a rooster, which is prohibited.

If the city finds too many hens on someone’s property, the extra hens have to be removed. Some people slaughter the extra chickens for food, Grabowski said.

Whether chickens and goats will be allowed in your neighbors’ yards depends on the neighborhood.

In Lacey, older lots in the Tanglewilde-Thomson Place neighborhood are typically 12,000 square feet, which would accommodate chickens, but newer lots range in size between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet – large enough for a few chickens but not for goats.

“As long as you handle things in a responsible fashion and consider your neighbors, you’ll probably be in good shape,” Burns said.

Nate Hulings: 360-754-5476 nhulings@theolympian.com www.theolympian.com/outsideoly