Lee’s Summit eases rules on urban chickens

After nearly three years of discussion, Lee’s Summit has put out the welcome mat for backyard chickens.

By a 5-3 vote on Thursday, the Lee’s Summit City Council agreed to allow residents to house up to six so-called “urban chickens” (but no roosters) within 10 feet of their property line and 40 feet from another structure.

Previously, chickens were considered “livestock” and were not permitted within 400 feet of another structure.

The vote, however, didn’t come without much banter and a few quips.

Council members debated everything from how chickens mate to the size and dimensions of coops.

In the end, dozens of residents who already own chickens in town, including David and Mary Bain, got what they were fighting for – the right to raise chickens without fear of confrontation with animal control officers.

Many of the council members weighed in on one aspect or another, including how chickens would count against the current city ordinance limiting each household to three pets (cats or dogs) and what kind of issues animal control officers have faced in the past with the birds.

“We impound chickens all the time. They run at large,” Animal Control Supervisor Rodney Wagner said.

“You mean, we have jail birds?” Councilman Allan Gray joked.

Wagner acknowledged just 12 to 15 loose chicken calls a year, though.

Gray vowed to support the ordinance change, noting that residents’ asking to keep chickens on their property speaks to the diversity of Lee’s Summit’s constituency.

Councilman Derek Holland said it was important to remember that despite the council vote, the many Lee’s Summit homeowners’ associations can still enforce their own rules regarding chickens.

Council member Kathy Hofmann had concerns about the size of the chicken pens, though.

“I came from a farm; I know chickens,” she said.

Hofmann was one of three council members, including Rob Binney and Ed Cockrell, who voted no.

While Bob Johnson voted to approve, he also had questions.

“I don’t know how clear this is or how it is (currently) being enforced,” he said.