LEWISTON — The city may soon make it easier for property owners to keep chickens or honeybees, after conducting an online survey.

Current rules only allow chickens in certain residential zones and require properties to be more than 30,000 square feet, but one of the proposed changes discussed during a City Council workshop Tuesday would reduce the requirement to 15,000 square feet.

Rules that cap the number of allowed chickens at six, and require coops to be placed at least 20 feet from the property line would remain. No roosters are permitted, and chickens cannot be free range.

Responses to the city’s survey showed a range of opinions, but a majority — 98 people — said they favored lowering the required lot size to at least 20,000 square feet. Another 25 people said the rules should remain as is.

Several councilors agreed that the required lot size should be lowered. Officials appeared to settle on a “compromise” of 15,000 square feet.

Councilor Lee Clement, who is in favor of easing the requirement, said the city should start small.


“I think there’s going to be an education period,” he said regarding the changes. “There can be a certain level of annoyance there.”

Some comments in the survey responses said the current rules are unfair because it bases who can own chickens on how much land they own.

“I don’t like the fact that those with more money and therefore more land or bigger plot size legally have more of an ability to feed themselves than those with less money and less land,” one respondent wrote.

Many also said that because Lewiston is a city, the rules shouldn’t be relaxed.

Mayor Carl Sheline tends to agree. On Thursday, he said he believes Lewiston’s ordinances for chickens and bees are sufficient.

“However, if there is a change in ordinance, I want to make sure that people have a way to address safety concerns if a neighbor’s chickens or bees become a problem,” he said.


One of the survey respondents said the city should reconsider its prohibition on slaughtering chickens.

“What if you have an old chicken and just want to wring its neck and put it out if its misery?” the person said.

City staff said the survey responses related to bees were evenly split. Some people want to see required setbacks reduced and some don’t.

The rules on keeping bee hives require at least 100 feet between a hive and a structure on an abutting property. Most officials this week agreed that the rule is unnecessarily confusing. The proposed change would eliminate the 100-foot buffer rule and likely replace it with a requirement of having at least a 25-foot buffer between a hive and the property line, or some kind of screening or “flyway barrier.”

City staff said it would likely follow guidance from the Maine Beekeepers Association, which recommends allowing bee colonies based on a lot’s square footage.

Councilor Bob McCarthy said the requirements don’t make sense, and that the 100-foot rule should be removed. Most agreed that the city should follow “best practices” from the beekeepers association and simplify it.


“I don’t think attack of the honeybees is anything we need to worry about,” he said.

A number of survey comments submitted said a buffer of 25 to 50 feet makes sense.

One commenter said, “Neighbors with documented life-threatening bee allergies should be able to appeal a hive that is less than 100 feet from their dwelling.”

City officials said the Good Food Council of Lewiston-Auburn supported changing both ordinances to support more residents being able to produce their own food.

City staff said the council’s feedback would be used to draft an updated ordinance, and would come back for a public hearing.

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