The Town of Herndon is reviewing its regulations for keeping goats and chickens in backyards at the request of some town residents.
The current rules regarding livestock are somewhat patchwork, existing both in the town code and its zoning ordinance. Goats are currently not allowed, and there is a one-chicken limit. Pet pigs were granted a reprieve in 2007, at the request of a resident who had a pet pig.
Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel said the Town Council wants to move all of the rules to the zoning ordinance, so that it’s no longer a police matter, and at the same time they are reviewing the current rules on the number and types of animals to see if anything should be changed.
“There are jurisdictions around the country that are allowing this urban farm type feel,” Merkel said, due to growing interest in producing local food. “But, it’s not a simple thing. We want to make sure we’re looking at it from all angles.”
Last month, the council initiated a zoning ordinance review process for the portion of the town zoning ordinance related to keeping goats.
This week, the Town Council asked staff to gather more information about the rules in surrounding jurisdictions. Merkel said she expects they will receive updated information in October.
“When it makes sense for the town, we want to stay closely in line with what the county requires because it gets confusing for people,” she said. In addition, Fairfax County provides animal control services for the town.
Herndon resident Kathe Barsotti is leading the charge to get the rules changed. She already has two miniature goats and six hens on her quarter-acre lot, not realizing that it was against the rules to have them.
Town zoning officials have said she can keep the animals while the subject is under discussion.
The goats are Nigerian dwarf goats. They’re still juveniles, but will be no bigger than a Labrador retriever when fully grown, Barsotti said.
Barsotti has rheumatoid arthritis and says eating an organic diet and, in particular, drinking raw, organic goat milk has helped her pain levels.
“I am currently getting milk at a goat farm that is three hours away,” she said. “I wanted a source that is closer to home and also to have control over what they are eating and how they are being cared for.”
Barsotti believes she is not alone in her desire to raise animals for food.
“It’s a very trendy thing that a lot of people are thinking about,” she said. “It’s a zero miles food source.”
The animal waste can also be put to use as garden fertilizer.
A small number of well-cared-for animals should not be any more of a nuisance to neighbors than a dog, according to Barsotti.
She agrees that louder fowl, like roosters and Guinea hens, should be prohibited but maintains that standard laying hens are not very vocal. They are also social animals, she noted, which is the problem with the town’s one-chicken limit.
“That is not really fair to the hens. They are social flock animals and should not be kept alone,” Barsotti said.
The Planning Commission is expected to take up the goat discussion in October.
Merkel emphasized that there will be ample opportunity for town residents to express their opinions on the issue, and that the Town Council is not committed to making any change to the current rules.