If Kent city council approves a proposed ordinance to allow residents to keep up to six hens, "We won't all of a sudden see 15, 000 of (Kent's) 28, 000 residents with chickens," said Bethany Snyder, one of the organizers of Citizens League for Urban Chickens Kent.
"Maybe 5 or 10 of us would actually get chickens," Snyder said.
The group, which is lobbying council for that proposed change, doesn't expect Kent to return its agrarian roots. But at an open forum held Saturday, CLUCKent founder Laurel Hurst said, "That does not mean we should not seek sustainable ways of living in a city environment."
The group held the forum to explain the benefits of allowing residents to keep chickens, to debunk myths about the proposal, to get supporters ready for an upcoming city council meeting and to offer a little Kent history.
Until 1996, "Kent had always allowed livestock with no restrictions," Snyder told the gathering of about 20 people. One resident had a sheep that the neighbors didn't like, "And with a broad brush stroke," she said all farm animals were banned in Kent on properties of less than two acres.
But with the popularity of locally grown food these days, allowing chickens is "an up-and-coming thing," Snyder said. CLUCKent has asked city council to consider allowing property owners to keep up to six hens. Roosters would not be allowed under the group's proposal.
"Roosters are noisy," Snyder said. "Hens are quiet cluckers, no louder than cars or the German Shepherd that lives two doors down from me." Snyder also said smell should not be an issue because she said six hens make less waste than one house cat. Plus, "the proposal is pretty restrictive," she said.
The proposed Kent ordinance would require that hens be fenced at all times, and it provides specific size, material, and setback requirements for coops. It would require that feed be contained in an impermeable container to prevent rodents.
The Kent Environmental Council has endorsed the plan. At the CLUCKent meeting, Kent Board of Health President John Gwinn said, "We were not enthusiastic (about the proposal), but really we have no objections on public health grounds."
Kent State University assistant professor of health education and promotion Laurie Wagner also spoke at the meeting.
"It's a nutritional issue," Wagner said. "Quality pasture eggs are far superior to anything you can buy at the supermarket. Chickens are a great way to teach children where food comes from."
That issue is what sparked the whole CLUCKent movement.
And it's what got mother Rosi Peruyero-Noden involved in CLUCKent. Peruyero-Noden said she was working with students at Walls Elementary School on a garden, and "they were amazed to see a radish come out of the ground," she said. "That's not right. A boy or girl in Kent should know where their food comes from."
Peruyero-Noden wanted to help the children to keep some chickens, but when she checked into it she found it was not allowed in Kent. That's when she heard that Hurst and the others were organizing around the issue.
During Saturday's meeting, they noted that many European countries encourage residents to keep chickens as a way to reduce food waste in the landfills. "Few cities in our region outlaw chickens (the way Kent does)," Snyder said.
"The proposed ordinance would still make us the most restrictive in our area," she said.
The group is preparing for a presentation before the city council health and safety committee on April 6.