(ISU photo)

A bill to set a statewide standard for city and county rules for backyard chicken coops has been tabled in the Iowa House.

The bill would have required any local ordinance allowing egg laying chickens near a residence to permit at least three birds for each person living on the property. Daniel Stalder, a lobbyist for the Iowa League of Cities, says the bill removes the ability of city councils to address a problem in their community.

“If a citizen goes to their city council, the point of that local government is to be able to handle local concerns and so when the state legislature says: ‘City councilors cannot handle this problem for you,’ is a great concern for us.”

Stalder estimates some apartment complexes could potentially have hundreds of chickens if the bill as written were to become law. “That number of chickens does not make sense in an urban sanitary sewer system,” he says. “It does not make sense with the current systems we have in place to manage stormwater runoff.”

All three lawmakers who reviewed the bill this morning expressed concerns about the legislation and agreed to table it. Jill Altringer, a lobbyist for the Iowa Poultry Association and the Iowa Turkey Federation, says the poultry industry is not opposed to backyard flocks, but the bill would have restricted local officials flexibility to protect commercial operations that are under the continued threat from bird flu.

“We want to make sure that cities and localities are able to best judge what happens in their area,” she says, “particularly if they have a high concentration of poultry.”

Elected officials in several Iowa cities have wrestled with decisions about whether to adopt ordinances making it legal for residents to raise chickens within city limits.

Radio Iowa