Des Moines Animal Control Wants to Limit Backyard Chickens

US - Des Moines animal control says it's time to cut back on the number of chickens allowed in the city limits.
calendar icon 16 October 2017
clock icon 3 minute read

The Des Moines Register reports that Sgt. Jim Butler, chief humane officer for the Des Moines Police Department, is proposing a 15-chicken limit per home and a ban on all roosters.

He'll present his plan to the Des Moines City Council during a Monday morning workshop.

"Most of the times you don’t hear anything about it because most fowl owners are good neighbors," he said. "But the police department deals with those that don't want to comply."

Des Moines currently allows 30 chickens on any property smaller than one acre. Larger parcels are allowed 50 chickens per acre.

Sgt Butler said animal control officers respond to complaints about noise, chickens running loose in neighborhoods and smells coming from chicken coops. Noise complaints involving chickens are second only to barking dogs, he said.

The ban on roosters is designed to cut down on noise complaints, but it could also help the city curb cockfighting rings, Sgt Butler said. In July, animal control officers removed 85 birds from a suspected cockfighting operation on the east side.

"It could certainly benefit us so we don’t have rooster fighting in Des Moines," Sgt Butler said.

He estimates that hundreds of properties in Des Moines have domestic chickens, but the true number is unclear. Unlike dogs and cats, the city does not require chicken licenses.

Sgt Butler said he also wants to simplify the city's rules on backyard chickens. Right now, information is spread across three sections of the city code.

"It’s not only confusing our citizens but it’s making it somewhat difficult for us for enforcement actions because it can be quite ambiguous," Sgt Butler said.

He is not proposing any changes to the penalties for offenders who exceed the number of birds permitted. A violation can trigger a simple misdemeanor.

On Monday morning, the City Council also will hear an update on efforts to build a new animal control center. The city's existing facility is ill-equipped to handle the number of animals coming through its doors, according to a study released in May.

The Des Moines City Council workshop begins at 7:30 a.m. Monday at the Richard A. Clark Municipal Service Center, 1551 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway.

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