Cheerleading for chickens | VailDaily.com

Cheerleading for chickens

GYPSUM — Denver Bronco Von Miller, a poultry science major at Texas A&M, is probably the biggest chicken fan in the state of Colorado.

But if there was chicken super fan crown for folks from the Eagle Valley, Anne Coequyt would definitely be in the running. However, judging by the turnout at the Gypsum Town Council meeting earlier this week, Coequyt would have lots of competition.

Dozens of chicken supporters responded to a plea from Coequyt to attend the meeting and crowded the Gypsum Town Hall last Tuesday. They implored the community's leaders to reconsider Gypsum's backyard poultry ban.

Backyard chickens have been forbidden in Gypsum for a couple of decades, but Coequyt and her supporters argued hens have gotten a bad rap from the town.

"Currently there is a huge backyard chicken movement that has been going on for years now," Coequyt said. "Backyard hens are just another way for Gypsum residents to maximize the productivity of their property and be more self-sufficient."

She argued that chickens are fun pets that have the added benefit of providing fresh eggs.

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Coequyt's chicken passion prompted her to conduct an extensive study of how other Colorado towns and cities regulate backyard hens. She noted most municipalities now allow hens, and proposed Gypsum follow suit with the following regulations:

• A maximum of eight hens and no roosters allowed.

• Coops must be located on the rear of properties, 10 feet from structures and 15 feet from neighbors.

• No free range chickens allowed.

• Chicken feed must be kept secure.

• No animal butchering allowed outside of a residence or garage.

• Chicken coops must be maintained to prevent odor.

• Chicken coops cannot be larger than 120 square feet or taller than eight feet high.

• The coop and chicken runs must be enclosed by wire.

• Chicken areas must be predator proof.

"We truly believe easing the ordinance will be a benefit to the residents of Gypsum," said Coequyt.

Who knew?

"I never thought I would own chickens," said John Dooley, another chicken advocate who spoke at Tuesday's meeting.

"It's been extremely rewarding to raise these animals from tiny chicks to beautiful hens."

Dooley noted that chickens will cause far fewer issues for Gypsum than dogs do. "I can assure you, no one will ever find chicken waste in their yard."

Dooley argued that laying hens are also much quieter than barking dogs. "When they are about ready to lay their one egg per day, some hens will have the need to tell you about it," he said. But come evening, the hens all retreat to their coops for a silent night, said Dooley.

Finally, he noted that his two sons have learned a lot from raising chickens.

"They have learned that giving some eggs away to neighbors creates a stronger sense of community," said Dooley.

One bad rooster

Gypsum Mayor Steve Carver told the pro-chicken group that the Town Council would not take action on the issue that night, but would forward the request to staff for consideration. In general, however, the council was receptive to the suggestion.

"I think that people need to know where their food comes from," noted Town Council member Chris Estes.

Jennifer Vanion told the town officials she worked on a backyard hen ordinance for Glenwood Springs a couple of years ago. Vanion said that during the past two years, Glenwood has seen 78 dog complaints but only two chicken complaints. One of those complaints was directed at a family that had a rooster, which is prohibited by the community's ordinance.

"That's what started this all (Gypsum's chicken ban) a few years ago — one rooster. It's all his fault," said Carver.