FAIRMONT - Chickens are now officially welcome in Fairmont - so long as their owners follow the rules, which the City Council approved Monday.
Chickens, ducks, turkeys - anything considered fowl or poultry - are now by ordinance included as permissible animals to keep within city limits. Owners can have no more than five on a lot, and roosters are strictly banned.
"It's an issue that seems somewhat silly to some, but I just got a call from Marshall asking us for a copy of our ordinance," said city administrator Mike Humpal. "They're going through the same thing."
One councilman was not in favor of the change. Newly elected Chad Askeland cried foul to fowl.
"Have you thought about what other animals this would bring to town?" he asked, listing predators such as coyotes and foxes.
Askeland said he has spoken with 20-plus people about the ordinance, and none of them want chickens next door to their homes. He also questioned what chicken owners' intent will be: whether they would keep them inside or outside, whether they would sell their eggs for profit or keep them.
"What's next?" he asked.
In response, his fellow councilman noted that Askeland obviously was not at the council meeting that took place in August, at which a large crowd of people showed up to voice their support for allowing chickens in town, while no one spoke up against them.
Councilman Wes Clerc said while he isn't necessarily a fan of chickens, his decision to allow them is a "direct reaction to the response from the community."
Keeping chickens is becoming increasingly common for ordinary citizens in cities across the country, Humpal noted, and many owners are interested in organic eggs, or they're gardeners.
"They want the eggs for themselves," he said.
No license will be required to keep chickens, but the city does require permits for accessory structures, which would include coops. The amended ordinance calls for coops, runs or other structures where poultry will be kept to be 35 feet away from any residence, other than the residence occupied by the chickens' owners. City Attorney Elizabeth Bloomquist noted the setback is from neighboring houses, not neighboring property lines.