AUBURN — Residents on lots up to half an acre can keep up to six egg-laying hens, city councilors decided Tuesday. And those on larger lots can keep up to 12 birds per acre, up to a flock of 36 birds.
Councilors agreed to change city ordinances and zoning codes to let residents keep small flocks of the birds in all zoning districts to provide fresh eggs.
"It's just chickens, after all," Councilor Dan Herrick said. "They are not mean, they are not dangerous. They are sweet, and they give you eggs."
Despite a last-minute push, residents don't have to register their birds with the city or even notify the city that they are keeping them.
Councilor Robert Hayes suggested councilors only allow the flocks on lots larger than half an acre and urged councilors to have residents on smaller lots notify the city.
It would make it easier for city staff to track down the birds' owner in case of complaints.
That's what Pauline Bernier of Mill Street was concerned about. She urged councilors to vote against keeping the birds, saying they'd be a nuisance and attract rodents.
"I've seen a rat, as big as a cat, and I don't want to see others," she said. "That's what would be attracted to the city, if everyone starts keeping chickens."
She said she was also worried about smells from the birds' droppings.
But Councilor Herrick said registering the birds would not help.
"Then, you have to hire a person in the clerk's office to take the registrations," he said. "And they're never open, so it just becomes a nightmare."
Councilors ultimately voted Hayes' suggested down. They did agree to change the wording, however, substituting the words "laying hens" for "poultry."
"You don't want turkeys, you don't want ducks, you don't want meat birds or guinea hens," Herrick said.
The current language allows residents to keep the birds in all city zoning districts.