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Crafton to consider allowing fowl

| Tuesday, March 1, 2016, 1:39 p.m.

Crafton is poised to become the next community to allow fowl to run free in suburban backyards.

Pressed by some residents to allow chickens, Crafton council will consider rules allowing up to four hens — by permit only — on residential property. A public hearing is scheduled for 7:15 p.m. March 14.

“People want a food source that is close to their table and a food source that they can trust,” said Phil Tompkins, owner of Rent The Chicken in Freeport along with his wife, Jenn.

The Tompkinses spoke at a council meeting last year after a zoning officer notified one of their renters of a possible violation.

Council asked borough solicitor James Gladys to create the ordinance after several residents expressed an interest in housing chickens. The proposed ordinance addresses enclosures, odor and noise impacts, feed and water, and waste storage and removal.

Rent The Chicken offers clients the opportunity to adopt the chickens or return them if they are overwhelmed by the experience. Rent The Chicken has 25 locations in the United States and seven in Canada. As for noise and smell, Tompkins said people likely would not notice a chicken coop when driving past the property.

“Two or four chickens produce less waste than a German shepherd,” Tompkins said. “Hens are quieter than a little yipper dog.”

He said hens cluck when laying eggs and when they sense danger. Two chickens produce eight to 14 eggs a week.

Under the proposed rules, chickens would have to be secured inside a henhouse during the night. The size of henhouses needs to be a minimum of 4 square feet per bird and at least 10 feet from the property line and 25 feet from a building owned by another resident.

Crafton, with about 6,000 residents, is the latest Western Pennsylvania town to consider rules governing chickens on residential property. Under state law the animals are permitted on farms, but local rules sometimes do not address — or prohibit — the feathered animals on nonfarm property.

Pittsburgh permits chickens and beehives. Suburban communities including Hampton, Mt. Lebanon, Pleasant Hills, Forest Hills, Wilkinsburg and Sewickley Heights have considered or adopted similar rules recently.

Jim Spezialetti is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-388-5805 or jspezialetti@tribweb.com.

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