Chickens in Lexington? Cluck in or cluck out

By Graysen Doran 

Lexington officials are again considering whether to allow residents to raise and keep chickens in their backyards. 

The Planning Commission is researching other cities’ ordinances that allow hens to be kept inside city limits. The commission will then make a recommendation to City Council. 

Albert Carr, a visiting professor at the Washington and Lee University School of Law, said at a planning commission hearing last week that he opposes allowing backyard hens in the city. He said the birds stink, they make noise, and they can attract predators like foxes and raccoons. 

“If I had wanted to live next to chickens and other livestock, I would have bought a home in the county,” he said. 

Patrick Rhamey, a former Lexington City Council member, said in an email that he believes residents support backyard hens in the city. 

“Chickens are far less intrusive, dangerous and detrimental than cats or dogs,” he said. “So, for the sake of logical consistency alone, they should be allowed.” 

Rhamey said allowing residents to have backyard hens in Lexington is an “inherent property right.” 

Under the current regulation, Lexington residents are prohibited from raising or keeping hens. The commission’s recommendation will advise City Council whether it should reevaluate the ordinance. 

In December, Rhamey asked the Planning Commission to review Lexington’s ordinance on backyard hens.  

Arne Glaeser, Lexington’s planning director, said cities like Staunton and Williamsburg allow their residents to keep chickens within city limits. 

Linda Nesselrodt, Staunton’s zoning technician, said Staunton chicken ordinance went into effect in 2015. 

The last time the ordinance on backyard hens in Lexington was discussed in a public hearing was in 2012. Glaeser said the testimony at last Thursday’s hearing was similar to seven years ago.  

Glaeser said he doesn’t know when the Planning Commission will finish its research.  

| The featured photo of the chicken is by Luis Miguel Bugallo Sánchez.