New Port Richey moves toward banning neighborhood chickens

NEW PORT RICHEY – Chickens living in New Port Richey city limits may soon be a thing of the past.

City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance last week that would prohibit residents from keeping any birds on their property. According to the ordinance, residents keeping chickens “has resulted in the proliferation of chickens throughout the city.” It also states that chickens “are a detriment to the public health, safety, welfare and quality of life of the residents of the city.”

Prior to council discussion, City Manager Debbie Manns reported that the topic arose from residents contacting the city and relating negative experiences about chickens kept in their neighborhoods.

“Certainly they are a sustainable source of food, but the neighbors are complaining about some nuisance-related factors,” Manns said. She added that when the city relinquished animal control services to Pasco County in 2014, a portion of the city’s ordinance related to livestock and keeping chickens was inadvertently eliminated.

Last Tuesday’s first reading and discussion lasted fewer than 10 minutes and did not touch off impassioned debates as seen in other communities. Three residents spoke during public comment, with both sides of the discussion being addressed.

A comment from Councilman Peter Altman captured the evening’s mood toward the topic: “I think we should go over-easy with this one.”

While Altman motioned to approve the first reading of the animal control ordinance amendment, he requested staff to provide options when it comes back for second reading. Council’s next regular meeting is set for March 3. The item, however, is not included on the agenda as of the afternoon of Feb. 27. The month’s second regular meeting will be Wednesday, March 18. It’s a day later than usual because of St. Patrick’s Day on March 17.

Based on previous comments from fellow councilman Matt Murphy and Mayor Rob Marlowe, the other options could include allowing residents to own chickens but placing limits on the quantity and banning roosters.

“I feel there should be a happy medium,” Murphy said. “Having one or two shouldn’t be that big of an issue.”

Murphy and Councilman Chopper Davis said that while they can see both sides of the issue, it’s not something they’ve heard debated much around town. “I honestly have heard no complaints for or against,” Murphy said. “This is really the first time I’ve heard anyone talk about it.”

Davis said he once visited a chicken farm while on a Leadership Pasco tour and noted the odor associated with the birds in large quantities. He stated a need for more information on the topic going into the ordinance’s second reading in March.