Nearly a decade after the issue caused a flap among town residents, Middletown will again consider whether to allow backyard chickens.
The topic is due to be discussed at the town’s meeting Monday at the request of Jonathan Minchoff, a resident who filed a text amendment to change the town’s ordinance, which passed in 2012 and prohibits the keeping of chickens or other farm animals within town limits.
Minchoff said he grew up in and around Middletown, and he kept 12 to 15 chickens for eggs when he and his family lived near Burkittsville.
“It was more or less a hobby thing,” he said.
Now back living in Middletown, he said he’s been thinking about and researching the issue for more than a year.
He said he borrowed much of the text for his proposal from the city of Frederick, which changed its code in 2016 to allow up to six hens on residential property.
His proposal would allow one chicken for every 500 square feet of backyard space, with up to eight female chickens on a lot. Roosters would not be allowed.
Owners would be allowed to keep the birds for their personal use and would not be allowed to sell eggs, breed chickens or engage in meat or fertilizer production, among other restrictions.
Manure for composting or fertilizing “must be contained in a well-aerated garden compost pile. All other manure not used for composting or fertilizing must be removed.”
Minchoff said he thinks the idea of keeping a small number of backyard chickens has become more accepted since 2012, as shown by Frederick’s change in 2016.
Just because it would be allowed doesn’t mean everyone will rush to get some chickens.
“You’re probably only talking about a handful of folks,” Minchoff said.
Middletown Burgess John Miller said when someone takes the time to put in the research and effort that Minchoff did, the town owes them a vote.
The 2012 vote was probably the most widely attended meeting he’s ever been a part of, Miller said.
Concerns then included questions about whether the animals’ feed would attract vermin and the hygiene of the manure for people with asthma or other conditions, he said.
A memorandum from Town Administrator Drew Bowen states the town’s staff has no recommendation on the change. The memorandum states depending on how many property owners choose to raise chickens, inspections and complaints could take up a substantial amount of staff’s time.
The town’s commissioners are largely different than the group that voted to prohibit chickens in 2012, with only Jennifer Falcinelli and Rick Dietrick still on the board, along with Miller, who participates in discussions but does not vote.
He said he hasn’t talked to commissioners to see where the votes are on the proposal.
Miller said he expects a public hearing in May, with a vote likely in June.