Urban agriculture not going away in Chocolay Township

Professional planners call it urban agriculture, the practice of growing and raising that which is typically found on rural farms in urban environments. For some, that means vegetable gardens, everything from modest deck and balcony tomato patches to full-blown backyard gardens, complete with fences and watering systems. For others, it means keeping small numbers of chickens in controlled environments.

That’s what’s happening in Chocolay Township, where vegetable gardens have been common enough for years but chickens rare. Look for that to change, perhaps in the immediate future, as the township board recently OK’d a change in its animal control ordinance allowing chickens.

The board, and residents, have discussed the issue on and off for several years before the panel voted 6-1 to approve the change last week.

“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,” Dale Throenle, township planning director and zoning administrator, told The Mining Journal for a story on the matter.

Throenle emphasized that the ordinance doesn’t mean residents can start converting their homes and properties into chicken farms. On the contrary, the entire affair wound be regulated. For example, free-range chickens — something professional poultry producers are doing more of to improve the quality and quantity of their birds — would be prohibited. Fences forming enclosed structures would be required to keep chickens from flying the coup, so to speak.

The Mining Journal story also noted the 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, the Journal story stated. 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.

A chicken license would be required, obtainable from the township office.

We like the township board has recognized the fact that urban agriculture is not going to go away and has taken the proper steps to regulate it and respond to any unusual circumstances that may arise. The Chocolay Township ordinance will go into effect March 13.