- May 7, 2015
Flocks of supporters have gathered together in towns across Central Florida petitioning to legalize the keeping of backyard chickens, with Maitland being the most recent to hop on the bandwagon in March.
The Maitland Backyard Chicken Initiative, an idea hatched by resident John Endicott, has garnered nearly half of its goal of 500 signatures in support of the city changing its code to allow backyard chickens since it launched March 15.
“Other cities are doing it, so Maitland should too,” Endicott said.
He’s modeled the Maitland petition, urging the city to remove chickens from its prohibited list of “live poultry,” off a similar effort started in Winter Park last year by resident Rachel Whited, which reached 500 signatures in August. Both hope to encourage cities to allow no more than five hens – no roosters, which are noisy and unnecessary for egg production – be kept in backyard coops.
Whited and Endicott each said their ideas spurred from an desire to control and take ownership of their food source through the eggs, citing concern over an ever-industrializing commercial food market.
To learn more about the Maitland Backyard Chicken Initiative, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/MaitlandChickens or their petition page on Change.org at tinyurl.com/MaitlandChickens
“If you went and bought a chicken from a grocery store, they couldn’t tell you where it came from, the same with eggs,” Endicott said. “… There’s just so many problems with that.”
Following Whited’s presentation of the petition to the Winter Park Commission in August, the city opted to not take any action regarding allowing urban hens until results of Orlando’s backyard chicken trial program, which began last May, were made public.
On April 8 of this year, the Orlando City Commission, after citing a positive response and zero complaints, voted to expand its Urban Chicken Pilot Program to add 50 more households to the 25 currently allowed to set up coups. Whited has presented that information to the city, and is waiting to see where Winter Park will take it from there.
In Maitland, the process of evaluating chicken legality is just beginning as Endicott and fellow resident Doreen Olive seek out meetings with city staff and officials to start the code-change application process. To do so, they’ll have to go through Maitland’s Development Review Committee and Planning and Zoning Commission before the idea is formally presented to Council.
Having proposed the idea to three out of five Council members so far, Olive said she’s received positive feedback from officials wanting to hear the idea out. Councilman John Lowndes said it’s an idea he supports the city looking into, as long as proper procedures are put in place to monitor and oversee the chickens when allowed.
Mayor Howard Schieferdecker said he’s interested in hearing what the public has to say once the idea of backyard chickens is proposed to Council, but said he initially doesn’t see any problem with allowing them to roost in properly zoned backyards.
“I’m open to it, it’s fine,” he said. “I don’t think you should restrict people from having things as long as they’re taken care of and don’t bother the neighbors.”
Endicott said he’s hopeful that his petition will spread and continue to educate local residents about the benefits and overcome common misconceptions, from noise to smell, that come with the idea of roosting chickens.
“I think word is spreading that having [chickens] really isn’t that hard,” Endicott said. “It’s like any other pet, only with the added benefit of going out in the morning and knowing you’ll have a fresh egg or two for breakfast.”