County board to consider chicken rules

FRONT ROYAL – With Warren County’s proposed rules for backyard chickens waiting in the wings for approval, leaders considered even more changes this week.

The Board of Supervisors talked at a work session about a proposed ordinance that would allow residents to keep chickens contained in their backyards. The county plans to hold a public hearing next month on the proposed regulations.

North River District Supervisor Daniel Murray Jr. told the board he’s received calls from residents asking if they could keep ducks. County Planner Matt Wendling joked about considering adding a duck prohibition but later said he’s had to respond to complaints about the waterfowl at a residence.

The Planning Commission recommended the board approve a set of regulations that would allow chickens on properties zoned for residential use. The recommendation came after the commission held several work sessions and two public hearings on the proposed rules. The ordinance uses a sliding scale to determine the maximum number of chickens allowed on properties based on acreage.

Planning Director Taryn Logan said the county received a petition from residents who want to raise chickens in their backyards. Logan said her office also has received complaints from residents about the proposed ordinance.

The ordinance would apply to several of the county’s larger subdivisions such as Shenandoah Farms, Lake Front Royal and others, Logan said.

County officials heard concerns from residents about enforcement with or without the regulations, Logan said. Chairwoman Linda Glavis asked how the county would enforce the ordinance. The department would have permits on file to keep track of the properties allowed to keep chickens under the ordinance, Logan said. Otherwise the department would enforce the rules as it does other regulations by responding to complaints, Logan added.

The ordinance also aims to prohibit loud birds such as roosters and guinea fowl, Logan said. The drafters of the regulation considered the noise created by certain birds and Logan noted that many of the lots zoned R-1 are small.

Murray voiced concerns about the runoff from chicken waste and said 500 residents could keep at least 3,000 of the birds. The supervisor said this concern came up at a recent meeting with state officials who didn’t consider the runoff impact. Logan said planners considered the runoff but noted that some people argue dogs create more waste and a greater impact on runoff.

Front Royal adopted its own ordinance to allow chickens on residential properties. The town regulations limit homes in certain zoning districts to six chickens.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com.