Pensacola, Florida
Tuesday August 14th 2018


Leftover Chicken

Escambia Takes Another Look
By Jeremy Morrison

If Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson can have dogs, then why can’t county residents have chickens?

“They poop in my backyard and they bark and we seem to get around that and make it work,” the commissioner said recently.

Robinson is currently supporting an effort to allow for backyard chickens in Escambia County. The county effort mirrors a push in the city of Pensacola last year that resulted in an ordinance that sanctions and defines the practice.

“If you can have chickens in East Hill,” Robinson said, “I don’t understand why you can’t have them in Cantonment.”

The practice of keeping chickens on residential properties has become popular in recent years. It is one aspect of the urban-farming movement—something Escambia County Director of Planning and Zoning Lloyd Kerr describes as “kitche and kind of neat.”

Last year, the city of Pensacola saw an ordinance passed that allows for up to eight chickens in a residential setting. Chicken enthusiasts worked with city staff to write up an acceptable set of rules. As Interim County Administrator George Touart told the county commission, “it hasn’t been a real problem so far in the city.”

Initially, county officials were not receptive to the concept of backyard chickens. After being briefed on the issue by Kerr and his staff on Valentine’s Day, the commission quickly chalked the matter up as a non-starter.

Commissioner Wilson Robertson said he had heard from citizens who were “fed up with all the chickens.” Kerr noted that a member of his staff had become a “chicken expert” and told the commission that allowing backyard chickens would end up costing the county a few hundred thousand dollars.

The cost-estimate consisted of $134,505 for three new animal control vehicles, as well as the hiring of three new animal control officers, at $38,475 per, plus another $1,000 each for certifications.

“Did you total up all these costs anywhere?” asked Robertson, before high-balling his own rough-math: “—in the 3-400,000-range.”

The numbers seemed to shake the commission. Commissioner Lumon May balked at the estimated chicken-costs taking priority over other needs—“we’ve got 14 community centers that aren’t staffed”—while Commissioner Steven Barry said he would be “a little bit more stoked about spending that kind of money” if he’d heard from more constituents on the issue.

“What’s the alternative? We can’t afford that,” Robertson turned to Kerr. “Should we just not allow chickens in areas other than agricultural?”

“I think that’s one alternative,” Kerr said.

The commission—sans Robinson—decided unanimously to take a pass on backyard chickens.

“If people apparently want to raise chickens and farm animals, they’re going to have to go into these agricultural areas,” said Robertson.

Outside the meeting chambers, Kerr stuck to his cost estimates. He wasn’t sure why the city of Pensacola hadn’t incurred such costs, and said the county numbers had been worked up in-house within the Code Enforcement Department.

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