By Lindsay Myers
Backyard chicken enthusiasts should strike “build chicken coop” off their list of COVID-19 home improvement projects.
Hyattsville City Council defeated the Backyard Chicken Act at its April 6 meeting in an 8-to-3 vote. The measure, introduced by Councilmember Schaible (Ward 2), would have removed the prohibition of backyard chickens from the Hyattsville Charter and Code, effectively eliminating the city’s ability to enforce the county’s extant prohibition.
Several members of council worried that the city would lose its ability to sanction bad actors if the measure passed. Unless the county intervened, the city could not, for example, penalize residents who raised hens in unsanitary conditions or kept a backyard full of roosters. Because the prohibition stands at the county level, however, Schaible could not offer regulations on raising fowl that might have curbed some of the potential problems.
“We can’t regulate something that is illegal at the county level, because then we would be informing our residents on how they can do something that is a violation of the law,” said Schaible.
Schaible said if he raises the issue again in the future, he might take the tactic of the Mount Rainier City Council, which recently approved a measure that declared the county’s ban on pit bulls to be the “lowest law-enforcement priority.” If Hyattsville adopted a similar measure regarding backyard fowl, city residents could raise hens in peace with the understanding that code enforcement could still take action against anyone abusing the practice.
Schaible said that people who want backyard hens will need to continue drumming up grassroots support.
“[Backyard chickens] are always going to be a minority interest … You’re never going to have an overwhelming demand, so unless you’re really persistent or dogged in voicing your interest in that issue, you’re not going to have a groundswell of support for it.”