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Pierce County Moves to Change Poultry, Livestock Laws

Reduced yard setbacks benefit owners of smaller lots; roosters, male turkeys and peacocks are banned because of noise.

The Pierce County Planning Commission decided to move forward with its recommendations for expanding poultry and livestock laws within Pierce County’s urban growth area after lengthy discussion and public testimony on Tuesday, March 22.

The Planning Commission has submitted their amendments to the County Council, which will hear testimony and vote on whether to approve the suggestions sometime in the first week of April.

The modifications to Title 18A zoning provide greater flexibility to residents who wish to keep and raise poultry and small animals, said the Planning Commission. The main change is a backyard and side-yard setback of 15 feet, which allows residents with smaller urban and rural lots the opportunity to keep their poultry and have more flexibility for coop placement. It also prohibits owning roosters, male turkeys and peacocks.

This comes after much debate from residents from the Midland community, specifically the Self-Reliant Community of Midland. They wanted more opportunities to practice urban farming on personal property.

" 'Continuity planning' for larger farms in Mid-County (really everywhere) is an issue due to aging farm owners & their kids not desiring to take over the family farm,” wrote Summit-Waller resident Phillip Brooke in an open letter to Toni Fairbanks, the chief clerk for Pierce County. “In Pierce County, allowing mini-farms on smaller parcels will play a significant role in cultivating a new generation of farmers to pass along our larger farms and open space, as it has done elsewhere.”

Much like the , residents in a rural area considered "urban" by zoning standards seek a balance in the ability to own livestock but still be good neighbors.

“I agree that individuals should be allowed to keep poultry and small animals such as sheep and goats—kept for personal use (such as eggs, wool fleece and goat milk, etc.) for personal use,  on parcels less than one acre,” said Fredrickson resident Kelly Mainard in another open letter to Fairbanks. “These animals have minimal impact on property compared to the vast benefits an individual and family can reap through raising and caring for small stock animals. Often, keeping small animals enhances the environment and property as well.”

At the meeting, Planning and Land Services proposed an amendment to existing laws, providing an exception that reduces the back- and side-yard setbacks from 45 to 15 feet, while limiting the type of poultry. On urban lots less than one acre, as many as six poultry hens and small animals in any combination are allowed. Roosters, peacocks and male turkeys are prohibited, because of the noise.

On rural lots of less than one acre, as many as 12 poultry hens and small animals in any combination are allowed. Roosters, peacocks and male turkeys are still prohibited.

Animal enclosures, for both urban and rural lots less than one acre, have a minimum setback of 15 feet from any adjacent interior or rear lot line. The minimum setback of any enclosure from the front lot line is 45 feet.

The Planning Commission argued that reducing the backyard and side-yard setbacks from 45 to 15 feet will allow more residents with smaller urban and rural lots to keep chickens, while still considering their neighbors’ view. Reduced setback can also offer more flexibility about where the animals can be housed.

For lots from one acre to less than five, livestock shall not exceed two animals older than 12 months. No more than 12 poultry, peacocks, rabbits or other small animals in any combination are permitted per acre.

There shall be no restrictions on the number of livestock or small animals for lots larger than five acres.

The Planning Staff decided on these recommendations after discussions with urban agriculturalists and studies on urban farms in Seattle, Portland and Tacoma. Many urban agriculturalists discouraged rooster, peacock and male turkeys because they don’t lay eggs and create the biggest noise annoyance.

LifeInPierceCounty March 26, 2011 at 09:57 AM
Minor correction. The initial request came from the Midland Community, in particular from the Self Reliant Community of Midland (SRCM - http://selfreliantmidland.com). County Councilmember Timothy Farrell attended our meeting on the subject, and took lead on sponsoring R2010-156; the directive to Pierce County Planning & Land Service to get the ball rolling, so to speak. If anyone would like more information, free to contact me. Stacy Emerson stacy.emerson at gmail dot com http://LifeInPierceCounty.com P.S. Thanks for the article, BLS Patch. Patch has come out the gate as a great online news source. Keep up the great work!
Lauren Padgett (Editor) March 26, 2011 at 04:48 PM
Thanks for the comment! I have made the correction to the story above.
Ted R Archambault February 12, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Okay, so I have been living with a neighbor that has 2 roosters in Spanaway on a lot much smaller than 5 acres. He also has approximately 25 chickens, untold number of rabbits, occasional ducks, turkeys and guenei hens. I have contacted him personnally, by mail and by email, to no avail. I have contacted animal control and was sent forms for three of my neighbors to fill out. The house next door is vacant and has been for alomost a year, another neighbor is very friendly with this Dr. Dolittle and won't fill out the from. Another neighbor is near deaf and can't fully appreciate the noise. So if this ordinance is passed will any enforcement be available or Will I be sent three more forms??
Leslie Rush June 03, 2012 at 03:38 AM
Can you tell me the current code for coops in Pierce County? Is it still 45 ft or has it been changed to 15? I can't seem to find it online anywhere.
Stacy June 05, 2012 at 04:32 AM
Leslie - it depends on where you live specifically--whether in city limits, or in unincorporated Pierce County, as well as what your specific zoning is (MSF, C/E, N/C, etc.). Best thing to do would be to contact your council person and ask them to look into it for you. Sorry I can't be of more help. Stacy Emerson
Adrienne Austero August 10, 2012 at 08:23 PM
What bothers me the most is the odor of the chicken waste! It was okay in the beginning but now that he has more ( more than they should have) the smell of the poop is affecting my back yard BBQ's!! We have had to go in the house with our food! Is there anything that can be done about this??

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