It appears the Windsor Village Board isn’t interested in making it easier for residents to keep chickens.
At its meeting on Thursday, July 2, trustees considered whether to change the village’s code of ordinances and standards for keeping domestic fowl in single-family residential yards.
“I’m not hearing support for overall changes to the ordinance,” said Village President Bob Wipperfurth, as discussion on the matter ended.
A request from resident Dominic Selfa to modify the village’s ordinance regarding the raising of chickens prompted the board to debate the issue.
As it stands currently, Windsor allows up to six hens, and no roosters, to be kept on residential properties that are greater than one acre. Selfa proposed eliminating the minimum lot size requirement altogether or reducing it to a half acre to conform with ordinances from other area communities.
“Changing from an acre to a half acre would significantly impact where you can keep chickens in Windsor,” said Wipperfurth.
Selfa’s written request noted that neither Sun Prairie nor Madison require a minimum lot size to raise chickens, although there is a permitting process for residents who want to keep them.
The letter also argued that the majority of Windsor’s neighbors would be allowed to raise chickens, while Windsor residents with less than an acre of property would be prevented from doing so.
Selfa also pointed out that new housing developments would still be able to prevent chickens within their homeowner’s associations, and that the vast majority of residential complaints for Madison and Sun Prairie are related to the keeping of roosters, which are specifically not allowed by Windsor ordinances.
In making his argument, Selfa wrote that young families want to be sustainable and self-reliant, and that chickens can allow for connections with neighbors and the sharing of resources. Additionally, he wrote that chickens can be a fun way to help children learn about responsibility and wildlife.
Trustees were open to the idea of allowing a special exemption for Selfa to own chickens, even though his property is less than an acre. Wipperfurth said he expects the board to take up the matter at its July 16 meeting.
The issue of keeping chickens was hotly debated by the DeForest Village Board last year. DeForest does not require a license to keep chickens, but a building permit is required if the coop is large enough, according to research presented to the Windsor Village Board. DeForest does not have a lot size requirement.
Staff with the Village of Windsor researched other communities to review their standards for keeping domestic fowl in single-family residential districts.
The review looked at Fitchburg, Sun Prairie, Waunakee, DeForest, Middleton and Madison. Waunakee does not allow chickens in its urban areas. They are only allowed in Waunakee’s agricultural zoning districts.
Sun Prairie allows them in single-family detached residential districts only. They are prohibited in duplexes and multi-family properties. Specific standards for coops are required in Sun Prairie, and residents can keep only four hens.
Middleton, Madison and Fitchburg allow residents in urban areas to keep chickens. Of the three, only Fitchburg has a lot size requirement. It is 8,000 square feet, and accessory structures must meet setbacks and are limited in size to 400 square feet. The number of chickens allowed in Fitchburg depends on lot size. Those with an acre or more can keep 25 or more. Only six are allowed on lot sizes of 10,000 square feet, with five permissible on lots of 8,000 square feet.
Deputy Village Administrator and Director of Economic Development Jamie Rybarczyk said that if Windsor lowered its requirement to a half acre, 880 more parcels would be allowed to keep chickens in Windsor. A lot of those are Windsor subdivisions, he said.
Rybarczyk also explained that the village’s current ordinance is silent on how coops are constructed.
Trustee Monica Smith said she was not in favor of reducing the current lot size requirement for keeping chickens, explaining that while some residents would be compliant with community standards for keeping them, others may not. Smith also talked about how she researched that three fatal viruses can come from keeping chickens. She wondered if there were any inoculations that could prevent those diseases.
Trustee Don Madelung initially said that he was in favor of reducing the lot size required to raise chickens, but reconsidered after hearing about Smith’s research into diseases.
University of Wisconsin Poultry Specialist Ron Kean said people do keep chickens as pets and that there is the potential for diseases, although he explained that it is small. Influenza is one, but the biggest concern is salmonella. Kean said there are not many inoculations for small flocks.
As far as complaints go, Kean said, “There are not many issues. There are more barking dog issues than there would be with chickens.”
Trustee Brad Mueller, in his last meeting as a member of the Windsor Village Board, wasn’t so sure, as he said his concerns were along the same lines as Smith’s.
“It’s about living in harmony with your neighbors,” said Mueller. “It’s a 50-50 thing. Half the people do really well, and the neighbors get along well.” Mueller added that the other 50 percent don’t.
At the same time, both Smith and Mueller said they would support an exemption for Selfa, noting the research he had done on the matter. Wipperfurth said that given the geographical area Selfa lives in, he thought it was possible to issue a special exemption so he could keep chickens.