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Draper Journal

Draper city code on chickens is changing

Mar 08, 2021 10:34AM ● By Mimi Darley Dutton

Olive, Toothless, Black Mamba Jr and Speckles are the names of the Dunn family’s chickens who reside in their backyard. (Mimi Darley Dutton/City Journals)

By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]

Draper’s history as “the egg basket of Utah” lives on in a new way, with chickens in residential zones gaining popularity, and the city working to update code accordingly. 

For years, city code has allowed six chickens maximum per lot in residential zones, regardless of lot size. A call to councilmember Marsha Vawdrey set a “text amendment” (an update to city code) in motion. “I was contacted by a constituent who said they’d moved here, bought an acre, and realized they could only have six chickens. She let me know that didn’t seem to make sense. As I looked into it, it was one size fits all and that doesn’t make sense to me, that you could have the same amount of chickens on 1/3 acre versus 1 acre. I thought that was something we needed to rectify. It makes sense to consider the lot size when you’re determining how many chickens you’ll allow,” Vawdrey said. 

Vawdrey also spoke with a Draper IFA employee who confirmed that chickens and their mash have become very popular and the store is busy trying to keep up with demand. “It appears that in the environment we’re in right now, some people were out of work, people were wanting to have some food production on their property, they wanted to be able to raise chickens and have eggs, and I thought that made sense. People are concerned when they realize they can’t go to the store and get everything they want,” Vawdrey said. 

Alisha Jensen is the Draper resident who reached out to Vawdrey. She and her family moved to Draper five years ago from Sandy. “We specifically wanted land with animal rights in order to pursue a more self-sufficient lifestyle. We live on a one-acre lot, but I found out we are still only allowed six chickens under current zoning.” Jensen expressed her appreciation to Vawdrey, as well as Todd Draper who works in the city’s Planning Division, for their work toward an updated text amendment. “I understand the city’s concerns that allowing too many chickens could result in some people possibly pursuing commercial gain and not just familial gain. My family is very happy at the new amendment, whether 20 or 25, it is a huge improvement on the previous six and will be a blessing to us,” Jensen said.

Draper resident Emily Dunn and her family have four chickens that they got for Easter three years ago as chicks. Dunn said each chicken lays about one egg per day. “We love the eggs, and during COVID, we’ve tried to share them with our neighbors.” Her husband grew up on a farm with chickens, but this is her first experience raising them. “It’s been a really easy pet, plus other pets don’t give you eggs,” she said. 

One part of the code that will likely remain the same is the no rooster rule. “I don’t think we’ll change that because that’s too hard on the neighbors. They do crow,” Vawdrey said. 

The current proposal suggests a reduction to five chickens on smaller lots and an increase to a maximum of 20 or 25 on larger lots. At a January city council meeting, Draper said, “Best practice is 50 per acre, so if you already have a home on the property, reduce that number to account for setbacks for the coop.” Vawdrey explained that setback means the coop has to be a certain distance from the property line so as not to bother neighbors.

“I always think we need to protect the rights of property owners, and sometimes we can go too far and take away some rights that don’t need to be taken away. If you have an acre, you should be able to have more chickens than if you have a half acre, it just makes sense,” Vawdrey said. 

The updated text amendment to change what is allowable by city code regarding “chickens for familial gain” is schedule to be voted on at the March 2 city council meeting.