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Penn Hills considers relaxing rules on owning of hens

| Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016, 9:00 p.m.

Penn Hills leaders may allow residents to raise hens in their backyards.

The Penn Hills Planning Commission on Thursday discussed amending an ordinance to allow people to own up to four hens on any residential property. Now, only residents living on more than 5 acres can keep farm animals.

The planning commission unanimously voted to recommend the amendment to council for adoption. Penn Hills Council is expected to vote Feb. 15.

Assistant planning director Meg Balsamico said the popularity of urban farming is growing, and the municipality could establish an ordinance before the issue arises.

“We had many people in the community come to us to ask if they were permitted to keep chickens,” she said.

Balsamico said the regulations were modeled after Forest Hills' and the city of Pittsburgh's chicken ordinances.

Under the proposed amendment, residents could keep up to four hens on their property if they obtain a permit and ensure that the chickens have a fenced outdoor area or predator-proof coop. Roosters would not be permitted.

The proposal specifies that owners are responsible for the upkeep and safety of the chickens and that they are responsible for managing noise, odor and vermin. The proposed rule bans slaughtering chickens in the municipality.

Balsamico said the state Department of Agriculture regulates the sale of chickens and checks them for diseases before they are sold.

Penn Burial Park owner Pete McQuillin has permits to keep 21 chickens on cemetery property and said he does not anticipate odor or noise from four chickens. He collects several dozen eggs each week from his flock.

“We've never had a smell or noise complaint (about) the chickens,” McQuillin said. “It's like anything else in keeping animals, you've got to do it right. If you don't do it right you're going to have problems.”

He recommended chicken owners share their eggs with neighbors to prevent complaints.

Penn Hills resident Kristin Hauman, who manages the Penn Hills Community Garden, spoke in support of chickens.

“I like the idea of food security and knowing where my eggs come from,” she said.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for the Tribune-Review. She can be reached at 412-320-7845.

or kshea@tribweb.com.

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