Chocolay chickens OK

Poultry permitted under updated animal ordinance

The Chocolay Township Board has updated its animal ordinance to allow chickens in non-agricultural areas. However, there are regulations in place for the activity. (Stock image)

MARQUETTE — Chocolay Township residents soon will be able to raise chickens on their property, providing they abide by the rules.

The Chocolay Township Board Monday passed a new animal ordinance by a 6-1 vote, replacing the old one with several updates.

One of the changes dealt with poultry.

Dale Throenle, township planning director and zoning administrator, said the ordinance will allow people to have chickens for personal consumption.

“You could before in the agricultural district, but before it was primarily considered an agricultural practice,” Throenle said in a telephone interview.

The issue of allowing township residents to raise chickens on their property had been discussed for some time.

“Over the last three or four years we’ve had several inquiries from not only people in the township but from people considering moving to the township,” Throenle said.

There are, of course, regulations pertaining to poultry or livestock in non-agricultural areas in the township.

“The big part of this ordinance is that they are not allowed to have free-range chickens,” Throenle said. “In other words, the yard has to have a fence or have a fenced-in enclosure.”

Free-range chickens could decide to head out into a neighborhood, he pointed out.

An enclosed structure has to follow all zoning setback requirements for the zoning district. That structure, or a fenced enclosure, can’t be located closer than 20 feet or designated setback for the proper zoning district, whichever is greater, from any property boundary.

Up to six chickens may be kept on a property. No selling of chickens or eggs will be permitted, and roosters are prohibited. Also, feed and items associated with the keeping of chickens are to be secured in sealed containers, with containment areas kept clean.

There also are limits to the chickens’ use.

“You cannot sell or do anything commercial with those chickens other than personal consumption,” Throenle said.

A chicken license wil be required before the birds are permitted on the premises.

At the Monday meeting, Trustee Mark Maki questioned whether having a separate animal ordinance could be confusing.

“Certainly, if the animal ordinance is in conflict with the zoning ordinance, we should make them both the same,” Maki said. “Somebody could read the zoning ordinance and not know that there’s an animal ordinance.”

A future zoning administrator also might be confused with having two separate ordinances, so he recommended the zoning ordinance include language that makes references to the animal ordinance.

Maki cast the lone negative vote Monday.

The new ordinance goes into effect March 13.

The city of Marquette is expected to address the topic of urban agriculture soon.

According to Section 8-5 of the City Code, it’s unlawful for any person to keep animals within the city except for domestic pets. Section 8-2 defines domestic pets as dogs, cats or animals customarily kept or housed inside dwellings as household pets.

Dave Stensaas, city planner and zoning administrator, said in an email the Marquette Planning Commission will conduct a work/listening session on this topic in March as part of its annual process of updating the Community Master Plan.

The session will focus on recently adopted provisions of the Right to Farm Act that dictate how farms, as defined in the act, and farm products may be regulated.

Stensaas said it’s reasonable to assume the commission will decide whether it wants a consultant to overhaul the Zoning Ordinance to provide zoning text options that would allow for some animal husbandry, and whether there are areas or zones that might be appropriate for low impact, small-scale crop production within the city.

It also might decide how flexibility might be built into the ordinances for reducing and/or eliminating permit requirements for certain types of structures used for seasonal extension of growing plants, such as hoop houses, and for creating gardens/planters in residential areas.

“The planning commission did conduct a public forum on urban agriculture in 2012, but it created more questions than it answered, which was actually a reasonable outcome for such a complex topic,” Stensaas said.

No further action was taken other than general support for community food systems and local food production was written to the Community Master Plan adopted in 2015.

Dave Schneiderhan, animal control officer with the city of Marquette, said the city doesn’t have a major problem with chickens.

“If it becomes an issue to me, I address it as best I can,” said Schneiderhan, who added only a few instances have been problematic.

Another part of the new Chocolay Township animal ordinance deals with outdated language relating to dogs. Throenle said the township now follows state and county rules regarding dog licenses, with one- and three-year options depending on when an animal receives its rabies shot.