Pensacola Escambia Chicken Keepers (PECK)

10262094_425967327540019_7534539206004553765_nGot chickens? 

Pensacola Escambia Chicken Keepers (PECK) will hold its inaugural meeting this coming Monday evening, May 5th, at 6:30 pm at the downtown Pensacola branch of the West Florida Public Library located at 239 North Spring Street, Pensacola, FL 32502.

PECK will start out as a discussion group for backyard chicken keepers and will then decide as a group over the coming months what direction the organization should take. All chicken keepers are welcome to attend from experienced to beginner to curious. If you’ve never kept chickens, come find out how easy, interesting and fun it is! We will also be providing information about the rules and regulations for chicken keeping in both the City of Pensacola and Escambia County.

Pensacola has an organic gardening club, a beekeepers association, and now a chicken club. What could be better than that!

We hope to see you there!

Yes, we can chicken!

EscambiaCountyFlaSealEscambia County can now take the stage with The City of Pensacola and countless other communities around the nation. The Board of Commissioners have voted 5 to 0; we can now legally keep chickens in county residential zones.

Thank you, everyone who took the time to contact their commissioners in support of this ordinance change. Also, we would like to extend our thanks to the County Staff who worked with us to make this possible.

August 20th BOCC Agenda

EscambiaCountyFlaSealThe agenda for the August 20th Board of County Commissioners meeting has been posted on the County website.

The bad news is, the Commissioners have very full schedule for them that night. The good news for us is that the Chicken Ordinance is the very first item on the agenda after the regular reports. There are no RV parks ahead of us (unless they change the schedule between now and then.) We are scheduled for 5:45 p.m., as long as the minutes and reports are done. If you plan to attend, I would recommend arriving at 5:30 p.m.

You can find the details here

Can We Chicken Or Can We Not Chicken?

2013-05-06 16.55.59The August 8th Escambia County BCC Regular Meeting made for a very long night. I had brought my daughter, Ally along with me because this morning before work, I told her what was going to happen tonight. She thought it best that she attend too, so that she could help represent our chickens. The meeting started on time and the first items on the agenda were several awards and proclamations recognizing county staff and other government officials. Soon after that, were zoning issues that required voting on, one of which turned into a very long and drawn out discussion that seemed to go on forever, but in reality was somewhere around an hour. Our item on the agenda scheduled for discussion at 5:51 P.M., but it was well after 7:00 P.M. before the zoning issues were out-of-the-way. At this point, I think my seven-year old daughter was about ready to give up politics entirely.

The rest of the items moved along quickly, and finally we came to our agenda item, the Chicken Ordinance. Chairman Valentino recognized that we had five speakers signed up to talk about the ordinance change, all five were in favor for it, none in opposition. Since there was no opposition one of the Commissioners motioned to vote for the ordinance change, then another quickly seconded it. They voted, 5 in favor, none opposed. It concluded that quickly.

Although I’m not a public speaker by any means, I was a little disappointed that none of us got called on to talk. I had planned to extend my thanks to the county staff that we had worked with over the last six months. I think it was an educational experience for everyone involved; I leaned a great deal about how our local government works and they got to learn that we really aren’t a bunch of crazy people wanting to keep chickens because it’s the “kitschy” thing to do. Once they realized that, which was rather early on I might add, they treated us with the respect and dignity that every county resident should receive from our elected officials and the public staff.

Afterwards, as I’m getting into my car to drive home, a friend texted me, “Can we chicken or can we not chicken?” A very valid question.

Tonight’s vote was the first of two public votes required for the ordinance change. After a required 10 day advertisement period, the next vote can take place. The August 20th BOCC meeting will be the second vote. If that vote passes, then our ordinance change gets adopted and we can “chicken” legally. It is possible that opposition may find its way to that meeting. If it’s not passed, it will likely be kicked back down to the Planning Board again, or the County Commissioners could even suggest an alternative to whatever issue was found that they didn’t like.

I would like to thank everyone– all of you, on behalf of all of us who’ve been working to make this happen. Over the last few days, we’ve received tremendous support. While we have no way to know how many of you called or emailed our Commissioners or their staff directly, we do know that 84 of you emailed them through our website. It’s a lot more than I anticipated and we all appreciate your involvement very much. We still have two weeks until the next vote and it will not hurt for new residents to contact their commissioner and let him know where you stand.

If you’ve already contacted our commissioners, contact them again and tell them, “Thank you” for voting in favor of the ordinance change. Let them  know you appreciate it!

Once again, because it’s very important, THANK YOU!

Email Our County Commissioners

We need all Escambia County citizens to let our County Commissioners know that the public supports the proposed ordinance changes allowing backyard chicken keeping in county residential zoned properties! For your convenience we’ve written a message that you can either copy and paste and email it to your District’s Commissioner or just fill in your info in the form below and let us send it for you. If you wish to email the message yourself, you can find your Commissioner’s email address on his specific page found on the County Districts page.

Any letter sent by email to government email addresses become public record.

Once you submit your info, check your email for the email confirmation link. Click the link in the email to complete the process. This way we can verify that the email addresses used are valid.

Dear Commissioner:I am writing to voice my support of the proposed ordinance amendment that permits backyard chicken keeping in residential zones. I believe that it is a natural right of mankind to be able to raise his own food, and I believe that keeping chickens allows people to exercise that right. Since people have kept domesticated fowl for hundreds of years, the desire of the residents of Escambia County to keep backyard chickens should not be considered a trend or a fad because it is more of a desire to return to one’s roots of personal responsibility and self-sustainability.Legalizing the keeping of backyard chickens should be a simple matter when compared to the many complicated matters that Escambia County is currently facing.Please support the proposed “backyard chicken ordinance” with your vote.Sincerely,

I Support Backyard Chickens

This petition is now closed.

End date: Aug 20, 2013

Signatures collected: 92

92 signatures

Latest Signatures
92Rebecca WestbrookAug 19, 2013
91Eric McCowanAug 10, 2013
90Scott HunsuckerAug 09, 2013
89Gregory SextonAug 08, 2013
88Michael PoseyAug 08, 2013
87Carla RossAug 08, 2013
86Diane WoodAug 08, 2013
85Lisa NewbernAug 08, 2013
84charles DurbinAug 08, 2013
83Cathy HallAug 08, 2013
82Heather ErnstAug 08, 2013
81Donal CartyAug 08, 2013
80Stephanie MillerAug 08, 2013
79Libby HargraveAug 08, 2013
78Robert RossAug 08, 2013
77Joree RaileyAug 08, 2013
76Sandra HardyAug 08, 2013
75Cheryle ChambersAug 08, 2013
74Dana LuptonAug 08, 2013
73William NorvellAug 08, 2013
72Amanda HawthorneAug 08, 2013
71William WellsAug 08, 2013
70will grimsleyAug 07, 2013
69Tara GlennAug 07, 2013
68Joshua WallnoferAug 07, 2013
67Ashley BarnesAug 07, 2013
66Julie GrimsleyAug 07, 2013
65Deborah McNairAug 07, 2013
64jill whiteAug 07, 2013
63Phillip WhiteAug 07, 2013
62Laurel NewmanAug 07, 2013
61Lydia HualAug 07, 2013
60Susan DaRosaAug 07, 2013
59Liz CarpenterAug 07, 2013
58Robert BullardAug 07, 2013
57Lora Renee BullardAug 07, 2013
56Michael NewmanAug 07, 2013
55Caitlin FloydAug 07, 2013
54emily morganAug 07, 2013
53Emily ChamblinAug 07, 2013
52Jessica HartleyAug 07, 2013
51Vicki WhiteAug 07, 2013
50Katheen WogslandAug 07, 2013
49Leonard WogslandAug 07, 2013
48Daniel CummingsAug 07, 2013
47Ashley WibergAug 07, 2013
46Eugene GaucheAug 07, 2013
45Alexandra ReyesAug 06, 2013
44Larry HensleyAug 06, 2013
43Molly PritchardAug 06, 2013

Chicken Ordinance Status

Here is where we stand with the chicken ordinance:

The Planning Board didn’t want to make any decisions without Mr. Tate, the Planning Board Vice Chair, who they consider their chicken expert on hand. We expected Mr. Tate to not be present yesterday, he stated last month that he had commitments and would not be at this meeting. The county will be forwarding the results of yesterday’s meeting on to Mr. Tate and the county attorney, Ryan Ross and depending on their opinion, the chicken ordinance will either move forward as a public hearing or will see at least one more session as a workshop meeting.

The only obstacles in our way for this to move forward is that Code Enforcement and Animal Control demand a limitation be imposed on the amount of chickens that residents can kept on a residential zoned property. I had hoped we could figure out a sliding scale that would work based on property size, or perhaps coop size, but it seems that no one can agree on or offer a working scale.

We spoke with Code Enforcement and Animal Control after the meeting and they do not want their staff to have to show up for a complaint and have to start surveying the property to figure out what number of chickens that property or coop would be eligible to keep. This is understandable, they have been understaffed for many years, as per standards set in place by the National Animal Control Association. The county population has grown, but the local government has not allowed new staff positions to be created to meet the ever growing demand. Steve Littlejohn, Lead Land Development Officer said if they had the man power to handle it, they wouldn’t need to set a limitation. This is where that figure of $250,930.00 came from at the Committee of the Whole meeting on Feb, 14, 2013.  Our county is already squirming to avoid staff increases in potentially more volatile environments, they will likely not even consider Code Enforcement’s request for more Animal Control officers.

To this extent, we need to go back to the County Planning Board with a maximum number of chickens to allow. Remember, we are talking only about residential zoned property, which can range from small land lots of mere fractions of an acre to two or more acres in size. While this is a fairly large swing in property size, and numbers of chickens that you could reasonably keep on the property is considerable even on small lots, we must remember that we are looking to keep chickens for personal use.

So what is the reasonable maximum number for personal use before you would be considered a commercial operation? At what point does egg production become more than a single family can consume or give away? If you are raising chickens for meat, how many chickens do you need to raise at a time before they are ready for processing?

With the proposed ordinance, it is still an option to process chickens for food, unlike the City of Pensacola’s ordinance where it is forbidden. However, the common consensus is that at our level, our chickens become more pets who happen to help feed us rather than a potential chicken and dumplings dinner. A good example of this is when I got my chickens, I had the grand idea of keeping them for eggs and then meat, but very shortly after I brought them home, my kids gave them names. My two young girls would never forgive me if I tried serving Speckles, Freckles, Tiny, Lilly or Cutie Pie for dinner. On a farm, chickens would be culled once they stop producing eggs on a reliable basis. In backyard chicken keeping, those old hens that would get culled elsewhere are usually given the luxury of living out their lives as pets.

During the meeting yesterday, 24 was suggested for the maximum number of chickens. I can accept this number, it seems a reasonable compromise. With 24 laying hens, you could potentially get more than 9 dozen eggs per week. That’s a lot of eggs for any family to handle, you’ll be giving away a lot of eggs, but if you start selling them, you’ve entered into the realm of commercial production and are no longer keeping chickens for personal use. With a 24 chicken limit, you could start out with a small flock with 5 chickens. If you keep them for only eggs, you are still talking about nearly 2 dozen eggs per week. As the chickens get older and slow down their egg production, you could reinforce your flock with new young chickens that will help pick up the slack of the older hen’s declining egg production. By adding one or two new pullets every year, your original flock would be able to die off naturally after living a good life and you can still enjoy those fresh eggs.

If you keep chickens for meat, you’ll need to plan out your cycle based on your family’s consumption rate. Depending on the breed of chicken you choose, you would be processing your chickens anywhere between 5 weeks for hybrid breeds to 15 weeks of age for pure bred chickens. I did talk about cycling flocks for meat purposes to the Planning Board and asked if they would consider allowing a flock to exceed the limitation if you have a batch of chicks that will be replacing a batch of chickens that are on the way to processing. We’ll see what comes of it.

When the ordinance moves forward to the Board of County Commissioners, we’ll need all the community support we can get. Come to the Public Forum and express your support. Be sure to contact your county commissioners to tell them that you want them to support passing the chicken ordinance. The most important thing here is to get involved.

New Chicken Ordinance Draft as of May 23, 2013

Only a few minutes ago, we received the following email from the county.

Good Morning,

This was an email from Ryan Ross and he asked for me to send it to all interested citizens. Attached is the draft ordinance and the information from the Extension Office. The Planning Board meeting will be June 3 at 8:30 AM.

Poultry Publications Ordinance Draft 4A


Kayla Meador
To All: I have attached a revised version of the ordinance establishing regulations for the non-commercial possession of live chickens on residential property.  I have also reviewed the materials supplied to me by our Extension Office (attached and highlighted).  Based on my review of these documents, I believe we still have two major unresolved issues:

1.  Number of chickens on a lot.  The current version of the ordinance establishes an eight-chicken limit on lots smaller than ¼ acre in size.  This is consistent with the City of Pensacola, which has established an eight-chicken limit on lots regardless of size.  During the last workshop, the Planning Board voiced its desire to establish a “sliding scale” based on UF Extension guidance.  I have reviewed the UF Extension materials, along with materials from extension offices in other states, and I was unable to locate guidance on the appropriate number of chickens that could be kept on an acre of land.  The general rule seems to be that a property owner should allocate 3-5 square feet of coop and open space per chicken.  I do not have the expertise to translate this into a workable scale.  Since I think any proposed scale would likely be legal, I will have to defer to the Planning Board, Planning Staff, Extension Staff, and the interested citizens on the number limitation that is appropriate for residential lots.  (I also reviewed ordinances in other Florida communities to see if there is a consensus; they appear to vary based on the needs of the individual community.  For example, while Pensacola has an eight-chicken limit per lot, Orlando has a three-chicken limit.  In contrast, Broward County authorizes up to 25 chickens per lot, provided that the chickens are kept in an enclosure at least 50 feet from the lot line.)

2.  Roosters on lot.  The Planning Board indicated that we should establish some flexibility in allowing roosters on a lot, particularly when the noise impacts will likely be minimal.  The UF Extension guidance does not address whether roosters should be allowed, but Michigan State Extension guidance advises that any backyard chicken ordinance should prohibit roosters.  Additionally, most of the Florida ordinances that I reviewed prohibit roosters.  I did locate one community, Pembroke Pines, that authorizes the possession of roosters, but only when such possession takes places no less than 100 yards from any inhabited dwelling other than the dwelling of the owner of the roosters.  Since this echoes the Planning Board sentiment as I understand it, I incorporated the same language into the current version of the ordinance.

I encourage you to distribute this e-mail and the attachments to Mr. Tate and the interested citizens for their feedback.  I am available to discuss these issues if they would like.  Again, though, I think these are largely policy questions and not legal questions, and I do not have the subject matter knowledge to make a call regarding the appropriateness of any proposed numerical limitations.

Ryan E. Ross
Asst. County Attorney
Escambia County, FL

We met with the Planning and Zoning Department

Today we had a meeting with Lloyd Kerr, Horace Jones, and Allyson Cain, some of the key players in the Planning and Zoning Department. We had a positive meeting and it looks like we could be getting a pretty fair ordinance!

Apparently, someone was listening at the Planning Board meeting on April 1! The county has reviewed some of the terms that we brought before them and some of the concerns that members of the PB brought forward. The terms of a new ordinance that the board discussed include:

  • Allowing for up to 8 chickens on a quarter acre; properties over .25 acre would primarily be governed by animal nuisance laws (noise, smell, etc.) and dealt with on a case-by-case complaint basis;
  • No roosters. We kinda already figured that one. But, there was discussion about POSSIBLY allowing roosters sometime in the future, after the new ordinance had time to prove itself. (Let’s give it at least a couple of years.)
  • Chickens must be kept in backyards and may be allowed to free range, provided they have a shelter (coop) to keep them safe from predators at night.
  • The coop must be kept 20-feet from neighbor’s dwellings. This doesn’t include your own dwelling–you may have your coop as close to your own house as you want.
  • Unless you are properly zoned, you may not sell chickens.

Other recommendations that might be brought up:

  • A 10-foot setback from property lines/fence lines. Really, this isn’t a big deal because it would already basically be included in the 20-feet from neighbor dwelling requirement.
  • Some zoning districts may still not be allowed to have chickens. The primary areas in question are Pensacola Beach and Perdido Key.

We encourage residents of these areas to contact your County Commissioners and let them know if you want to be able to keep chickens in your areas.

Although this is a very good start and shows SO much progress from where the thinking was a couple of months ago, we still might have to campaign for these terms. If people keep their word, these are the ordinance terms that Planning and Zoning will present to the Planning Board in May for public hearing. If the proposal meets no opposition or changes and the Planning Board chooses to move forward, it will be presented to the Committee of the Whole. The next step from there is the Board of County Commissioners Regular Meeting for public hearing, then for voting. We’re definitely moving forward!

We were also given copies of the April 1 2013 Chicken Ordinance Draft and the Power Point Slides that were used for the presentation at the April 1 Planning Board meeting. These documents were not made available at the time of the Planning Board Meeting.  We were also given a printed copy of the proposed Draft Ordinance changes that they plan to present to the Planning Board at the next meeting. 

In the news again! covers the county chicken ordinance

Once again, local media has taken up the story, this time has written another article regarding Escambia County considering a new chicken ordinance.

Escambia Once Again Looking At Chicken Ordinance

paper5Escambia County is once again looking at new rules for chickens at single family homes outside areas zoned rural.

Earlier this year , the commission decided against a new chicken ordinance mostly because the estimated enforcement cost would be too high. But after hearing from pro-chicken groups, the commission decided to delay their official decision to consider options.

Read the full article here