Sep 15, 2023 - News

Ankeny backyard chickens get closer to fruition

Ruth Nguyen (left) and Heather Christensen (right) of Ankeny are working to allow backyard chickens in the northern suburb. Photos: Courtesy of Nguyen and Christensen

The Ankeny City Council is holding a public hearing Monday to consider allowing hens in residents' backyards — a major step in showing that personal poultry ownership has some traction after more than a decade of discussion.

Why it matters: Raising chickens helps connect people with their food and teaches self-sufficiency, says Ruth Nguyen, a chicken proponent in Ankeny.

  • Nguyen tells Axios she wants them to help teach her children responsibility and to see the rewards of their labor through eggs the chickens produce.

Flashback: Advocates have approached the city council for years about allowing chickens, with the city going so far as drafting an ordinance in 2012.

  • But former Mayor Gary Lorenz said he would veto any ordinance allowing them, as he was "unwilling" to subject neighbors to chickens.

Driving the news: A new mayor and city council were elected in 2021, prompting new life to the efforts, says Heather Christensen, an Ankeny resident who has helped lead the new charge.

State of play: City staff have recommended allowing chickens in lot sizes no smaller than 20,000 square feet and placing coops 25 feet from property lines — a proposal that is restrictive and excludes most Ankeny homeowners, including herself, Christensen tells Axios.

  • In public meetings, elected officials have expressed openness to less restrictive rules and for allowing flock sizes between six to 10 hens.
A chart showing chicken keeping
The red areas denote which homes in the Deer Creek neighborhood in Ankeny would be allowed to have chickens under the 20,000-square-foot limitation. Map: Courtesy of the city of Ankeny

Zoom in: For Nguyen, it is the first time she's ever been involved in city politics or attended a council meeting. She first learned about the efforts to pass a new ordinance through an Ankeny Urban Chickens Facebook group.

  • She tells Axios that she's spent her life working on gardens and preserving and canning vegetables and chickens are the next step.

What they're saying: Christensen wants to make her home a "sanctuary" that would benefit her family and community.

  • Her group is advocating for eliminating lot size restrictions and implementing a 20-foot offset from neighboring occupied buildings. That would allow more Ankeny residents to have chickens while also keeping distance from neighbors.

What's next: The public hearing is Monday at 5:30pm at the Kirkendall Public Library.

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