We published quite an interesting story a week ago about two men questioning an ordinance that prohibits ownership of pet chickens within Ashland municipal limits.

Justin and Chuck Literal want to challenge the ordinance preventing them from having chickens and rabbits in the city. They recently appeared in front of the Ashland Board of Commissioners during a June meeting and voiced concerns with the ordinance. The men are asking the city to change the rules, and Justin and Chuck will then go in front of the planning and zoning commission to plead their case.

The current ordinance states that no animals other than household pets can be permitted in any zoning district unless specifically permitted, and a household pet is defined as “animals normally and traditionally considered ‘pets.’” These do not include animals kept, raised or bred for commercial purposes. The classification does not include animals normally and traditionally considered farm animals such as horses, poultry and bees.

The application submitted asks the planning and zoning committee to consider a text amendment to the zoning ordinance that would allow people to keep traditional farm animals with a permit or other conditional reason.

Chickens have been kept in Chuck Litteral’s yard since April, and he and Justin were notified they were breaking the ordinance in June. They were given 10 days to remove the animals from the property. Justin then went to city hall and formally announced he wanted to challenge the rule.

Justin Litteral stood up at public participation at the Board of Commissioners meeting on June 27th to request the ordinance be modified.

The process for changing the rules is somewhat time consuming. A person has to submit an application at least one month prior to the day they are to go in front of the (planning and zoning committee). Within that month, there has to be a public notice listed in the newspaper, residents must be notified and other city departments would be contacted.

The Literals have been granted permission to keep the animals until the end of August.

Believe it or not having chickens in urban areas is kind of a hot issue of late. Let’s just say it has been incubating for a while across the nation.

An article in The Conversation authored by Catherine Brinkley and Jacqueline Kingsley of the University of California, Davis, said "over 13 million Americans flocking to the backyard poultry scene.” In the United States, they said, contact with backyard poultry is associated with hundreds of multistate salmonella outbreaks every year.

We think this is an important fact because it shows this isn’t just about property rights and the rights to farm even on a small scale. It is also about human health.

Our general view is if it is done within reason — and with respect for one’s neighbors — there should be a path forward for having some chickens in an urban setting. You just can’t have chickens roaming urban streets. If someone wants to have a few pet chickens and a coup that is well contained for the purpose of raising some fresh eggs we think there is certainly a way to allow that to happen that respects both the person living at the home and those living around them. This is of course a rural region. The idea that one can’t have a few chickens in their yard, if it is done with respect for others, we think fits within the viewpoint of the vast majority of Eastern Kentucky residents.