That may soon change.
The city will be holding a public hearing on Thursday, Jan. 10 to discuss, and potentially approve, development code amendments to allow chickens in platted subdivisions.
"We've had some requests from citizens asking for the possibility of the code changing," said Francis Mayor Lee Snelgrove. "We've had several people who have said, 'We are in a rural community. We need to allow this.'"
Snelgrove added that the city wants to be sensitive to the people wanting to raise chickens in subdivisions, as well as be sensitive to their neighbors so that they don't feel encroached on by a large number of chickens, foul odors or rodents.
"It's a balance. How do you come up with that?" Snelgrove asked.
The current Francis ordinance says that in areas that have historically been agricultural, chickens, horses and other domesticated farm animals are permitted on properties with at least a half-acre devoted to their care.
"But a lot of people are returning toward more self-sufficiency, and are growing vegetable gardens, raising chickens and having home-grown eggs. I think this has been a big trend throughout the country for the last several years," Francis City Planner Alison Weyher said.
The issue was brought to light in September last year when residents in the Wild Willow subdivision complained about a neighbor, who had 30 chickens, as well as pheasants and guinea hens on two-acres of land.
"They were right on the property line, underneath the next-door neighbor's master bedroom window. The smell was bad and they just let them run loose. We had to tell them to get rid of them," Snelgrove said.
Weyher added that the city knew chickens were being illegally kept, but that they weren't causing problems.
"In Francis, as in most communities, we only enforce on a complaint-basis and we never had any complaints. And so it was never a concern before," she said.
The incident prompted the city to look at its code to see if it would be feasible to modify it to allow chickens, and to put regulations in place so that they would not disturb or encroach on the neighbors.
"It raised the issue about legitimizing chickens," Weyher said. "So the Francis City Council asked the Planning Commission to review the ordinance to see if it was appropriate to allow chickens to be in all residential areas within Francis."
The Planning Commission met in November and made recommendations to the City Council that no more than six chickens be allowed on any property, no roosters or crowing hens be permitted, chickens must be kept in the backyard and away from the property lines, they must be kept solely for personal use and be housed in coups with solid roofs and walls to protect them from predators.
"Francis is a rural community and we have lots of foxes, raccoons and other creatures, so we want to make sure the chickens are in a safe place, and that we aren't encouraging predators to come into subdivisions," Weyher said.
Not only does the city not currently allow chickens in most subdivisions, many homeowners associations in the city additionally specify no-chicken policies in their Covenants, Conditions and Restriction documents (CC&Rs), including Wild Willow.
Snelgrove said he could see the CC&Rs being a concern among some residents if the ordinance is amended.
"In Wild Willow, there are some folks that have some chickens, but they are violating their CC&Rs, even if our code did or did not allow it," Snelgrove said. "If we amend the city ordinance to say you can have chickens, but the CC&Rs say you can't have any, I can see some people coming to us and saying you should change this. But we don't have the authority to change it."
Only the Homeowners Associations or developer over the CC&R can change it, he added.
But within their scope of authority, Weyher said she believes the recommended ordinance is a balanced solution.
"And I think the City Council is on board, and that we'll be legitimizing chickens," Weyher said.
The public hearing will be held at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 10 in the Francis City Community building, located at 2317 South Spring Hollow Road.