Local works toward a county ordinance to allow residential chickens

Proponents of allowing chickens to be raised in residential areas say it goes far beyond having a ready source of fresh eggs. Among other positives, they note the educational value in teaching sustainability and in showing children how to care for animals.

By John Koski

SLN Staff

For Sara Adsit-Smith, raising chickens in her backyard is more than just having a ready source of fresh eggs for a morning omelet or for making a batch of chocolate chip cookies for her family.

“I’ve always enjoyed raising animals,” the East Troy native said. “Having backyard chickens would enable me to educate my daughter about to how to properly care for animals, help her to have more respect for where her food comes from and demonstrate the principles of sustainability.”

In addition, having her own chickens would give Adsit-Smith greater peace of mind.

“With backyard chickens,” she said, “I wouldn’t have to worry about where the food was coming from, how fresh it was or where it had been.”

Ah, but there’s a rub.

If Adsit-Smith lived in Delavan, Whitewater, Fort Atkinson, Green Bay, New Berlin, Madison or a host of other Wisconsin cities, she would be allowed, by city ordinance, to raise chickens on residential property.

Even major cities, such as Chicago, Seattle and Portland, Ore., allow residents to raise backyard chickens.

The problem is that Adsit-Smith lives in the town of Sugar Creek, where raising backyard chickens is prohibited, just as it is in all 15 Walworth County towns.

But she’s working to change that, However, as she has come to realize, it is an arduous, time-consuming task.

“It has been difficult, she wrote in an email, “but it will be worth it for many, many reasons.”


Time-consuming work

“To create and pass this ordinance,” she said, “I will need the support of the majority of the 15 towns of Walworth County. “I have already done quite a bit of research and spoken to almost every town clerk.”

She has personally visited with planning commissions or town boards in Sugar Creek, Lyons, Walworth, LaGrange, Troy and Richmond and said she has preliminary approval from them, with final approval pending.

Her hope is to get all 15 towns to agree to allow residential chickens. Once Adsit-Smith has those commitments, she plans to approach the county board, which she hopes will pass an ordinance allowing town residents to have backyard chickens.

“To accomplish that goal, I need to attend meetings – lots and lots of meetings,” she said. “I work full-time as a nurse, and am also a wife and mother. I’m hoping to find others to help in this endeavor, to write letters and go to meetings when I cannot.”

People interested in assisting Adsit-Smith or for more information, can contact her at (608) 385-0218 or sadsitsmith@live.com.


Sample ordinance

Most backyard chicken ordinances specify limits on the number of chickens allowed, typically ranging from two to six.

In addition, they prohibit permit holders _ although some cities do not require permits – from owning roosters and prevent slaughtering of chickens on residential property. Most ordinances also regulate the size, location and type of coop the chickens must be kept in.

As an aid to town boards, Adsit-Smith put together a “Proposal for a Backyard Chicken Keeping Ordinance.” The sample ordinance contains the following general conditions:

• Up to four chickens are allowed to reside on an occupied, single-family property. Chickens may not be kept on duplex, triplex or multi-family properties. Homeowner association regulations would supersede county ordinance.

• Chickens must be kept on the owner’s property at all times.

• The coop and enclosure must be a minimum of 10 feet from the rear and side property lines.

• The coop and enclosure must be completely secured from all predators.

Adsit-Smith’ sample ordinance also include answers to commonly asked questions about raising residential chickens.

“The simple fact is chickens are fun,” she wrote in answer to one of the questions. “They have personalities and love to be held and petted. It is so satisfying to come out to your coop in the morning to find your hens’ eggs nestled in the straw, so fresh that are still warm.

“Raising chickens is a great way to teach our kids responsibility and compassion for animals. They also make great 4-H projects.”





  1. pete says:

    Keep up the good work Sara, it will pay off for many many families & children.

    Excellent story Vanessa

  2. A neighbor says:

    Chickens are great; roosters are another story. When your neighbor has chickens that cluck along quietly, all is good. When your neighbor starts having roosters that won’t shut up and crow incessantly it’s horrible. Hopefully any ordnance will take that into account. It isn’t any fun when your quiet retreat of a back yard is no longer a retreat and the non-stop noise from the roosters drives you back inside for some piece and quiet. A crowing rooster is as bad if not worse that a non-stop barking dog.

  3. Sara says:

    Yes, most ordinances for towns and villages do not allow roosters, including the one I am proposing to the county. However, if your neighbor has a farm or is zoned agricultural, roosters are allowed.
    Thanks for your support!

  4. toni says:

    its funny that Walworth county wont let in chickens but I live in lake Geneva (como ) $ yes count them 4 bars on one road, they rather have DRUNKS driving uop and down and on wrestling night at the flanagens the noise shakes the house , but you cant have little chickens , and a small bandy rooster makes very little noise , not as much as the neighbors barking dogs or the annoying grand children that scream all day long , but again como wont let in chickens ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

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