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Manatee residents unite: We want chickens

MANATEE -- Citizens who want to keep dooryard chickens are crying ‘fowl’?

Manatee County commissioners are getting complaints from those who want to keep chickens in residential areas of the county, but are currently prohibited from doing so.

“I want fresh eggs,” explained Capt. Kathe Fannon, a commercial fisherman who has contacted the commission about the issue.

Fannon, 50, who lives west of Bradenton, objects to hormones and other additives in commercially produced eggs, and would like to keep a single chicken in her yard that could provide a more tasty and pristine product, she said Thursday.

Under the current Land Development Code, chickens are illegal in residentially zoned neighborhoods, County Planning Director John Osborne said Thursday.

Those who have contacted County Commissioner John Chappie would like to keep chickens solely as pets, he said.

He planned to bring it up during Monday’s commission meeting to see how other board members might view a change in the code, with certain guidelines.

“We’re not talking about chickens running free, in any sense of the word,” he emphasized.

The cities of Sarasota and Palmetto both allow it, under certain circumstances, and their rules have been forwarded to the commission for study, Chappie said.

Citing “a nationwide movement towards sustainable, local food production,” Sarasota amended its city code in February to allow residents to keep no more than four chickens, with roosters prohibited, according to the ordinance,

Vicki Jarratt, 57, an employee of the county clerk’s office, also has contacted the commission in hopes it would change its stance because she wants to keep chickens for a more healthful lifestyle.

“We don’t want a rooster, we just want hens,” she said, noting that laying chickens do not require a rooster in order to produce eggs.

“The eggs from homegrown or backyard chickens are much healthier than what is bought in the store, with less chance of salmonella,” she said,

Salmonella bacteria are the most frequently reported cause of food-borne illness, according to a fact sheet posted on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website.

Chickens produce manure for a backyard garden, keep the bugs down, and when their laying days cease, provide an inexpensive source of high-quality meat, Jarratt said.

“There are a lot of people in the city and the county that already have chickens, illegally,” Jarratt added. “I don’t want to go that route; my husband is a contractor, and we don’t want to spend the money for a chicken coop, only to be told we can’t have it.”

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031.