A few Ottawans want the right and privilege to legally keep ducks and chickens in the city limits. While both fowl are nice animals, it’s difficult to imagine a good outcome from allowing them in Ottawa.

Residents can speak out on the issue next week at a 7 p.m. Wednesday public hearing at Ottawa’s City Hall as Ottawa planning commissioners consider the request. Planning commissioners are responding to a petition signed by nearly 50 people. Those in favor, including the petition’s organizer, Ottawan Chase Lebahn, 22, believe chickens maintain yards by eating weeds, as well as being beneficial by producing eggs and combating some insects. Those advocates, no doubt, will face some opponents to that positive perspective. (Readers also can voice their views about the proposed chicken change in a new online Herald poll at www.ottawaherald.com)

Though chickens and ducks make nice farm animals in a rural setting, the same can’t be said in the city limits. One can only imagine what an animal control officer would need to do when a family grew tired of the animals and dumped them somewhere for others to care for. And what about the angst that could occur between neighbors when dogs, cats or children bothered their neighbor’s chickens and/or ducks? How about the neighbor who gets so annoyed at the noise or mess of the animals that they get out their gun to shoot the birds?

In Ottawa, fowl are restricted to properties larger than three acres in size. The amendment being considered by the planning commission would allow the keeping of up to four chickens or ducks through approval of a conditional-use permit. Roosters would continue to be prohibited. At a time when municipalities need to reduce expenses, it makes no sense to have to police chicken coops in the city or to see if animal droppings have been disposed of properly through incineration or burial, which doesn’t sound good for the city’s water supply.

Plenty of other bad outcomes could result from the change. The human health hazards from chicken manure, which is an anti-biotic resistant bacteria, are significant, not to mention the smell. Chickens and ducks also have the potential to increase the noise level in a neighborhood with their clucking or quacking on par with dogs’ barking. One person’s animals soon enough could become someone else’s Sunday dinner. It would be quite the centerpiece for a neighborhood block party.

Domesticated farm animals getting run over on city streets could be next — and who wants the clean-up expense from their droppings? What accommodations would have to be made for the animals on Independence Day when fireworks are blasting and lighting up the sky? All it takes is one soft-hearted person to feed the animals to start an unintended population explosion of the animals‚ certainly not the outcome desired by this request.

This is a backward recommendation. Chickens and ducks are farm animals and should remain so.


— Jeanny Sharp,

editor and publisher