Orlando approves backyard chicken program expansion

City allows 50 more permits, 4 chickens per family

ORLANDO, Fla. - Officials in Orlando approved an expansion of the city's popular backyard chicken program, allowing four chickens per family and 50 more families to receive permits.

The "Urban Chicken Pilot Program" was created in May 2012. Currently, 25 families have permits to own chickens in Orlando. The number has been increased to 75 permits.

City leaders also increased the number of chickens allowed per household from three to four. Families who currently own a permit will be allowed to own an additional chicken. Roosters are not permitted with the program.

New permits will cost $50.

The city council also added District 6 to the approved districts for the program. The original program included Districts 3, 4 and 5. Maitland and Winter Park are looking into a similar program.

More than 300 cities allow urban chicken farming in the United States. City Commissioner Patty Sheehan spearheaded the year-old program and says the popularity of chicken farming is part of a bigger movement. She said she keeps three hens and plans to add a fourth.

"And you know, they care about where they get their food from, and it's an extension of that," Sheehan said. "It's great. I have fresh eggs every morning. I treat them as pets, my only problem is my dog had an adjustment with this."

Employees at Palmer's Feed Store say a baby hen costs around $3 and a chicken coop costs about $100 to $200.

Meanwhile, the city continues to draft a new ordinance governing vegetable gardens in neighborhood yards. 

Code enforcement officers threatened to fine Jason and Jennifer Helvenson, of College Park, for their garden. City officials later decided the rules governing gardens were too vague and new guidelines needed to be established.

The Helvenstons told Local 6 they're glad the city is willing to allow front-yard gardens, but they're concerned officials might impose too many restrictions, possibly limiting the garden to a quarter of the front yard, requiring a fence and outlawing taller crops.

The couple said they believe edible plants should be treated no differently than decorative landscaping.

"If you tell us we can't grow something over four or five feet, we're going to tell you no other plant can grow over four or five feet," Helvenston said.

It's not clear how long it will take for the proposed garden ordinance to be drawn up or the restrictions it will include. Before commissioners vote on it, the public will have an opportunity to comment.

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