The Herndon Town Council has agreed to consider another proposal to allow animals typically associated with the farm to be kept in suburban backyards.
This proposal, as sent to the Herndon Planning Commission for review, would allow up to four hens in residents’ backyards, with certain conditions.
Last month, the council rejected a proposed zoning change that would have allowed miniature goats to be kept as pets on quarter-acre lots.
The majority of council members indicated that they are not more favorably disposed to the idea of chickens in town but, with about 40 people coming to Tuesday’s council meeting to show support for backyard hens, they were willing to give it further consideration.
“I think this is why we have a planning commission, to look into these issues more deeply,” said Mayor Lisa Merkel. “I don’t think we know enough about it right now.”
Councilman Dave Kirby was the only one to vote against the motion referring the matter to the Planning Commission. He said the small town is “a place people come when they don’t want to be bothered with farming.”
To the supporters of backyard hens, he said, “I hope they find someplace they can do that outside of town limits,” suggesting that the larger Fairfax and Loudoun counties have “plenty of room” for chickens.
Herndon’s current rules allow only one hen. A community environmental group called the Herndon Environmental Network asked for the number to be increased to at least six, in part because chickens typically live in flocks.
“I look forward to this going to the Planning Commission,” said Councilwoman Sheila Olem. “Chickens weren’t meant to be alone.”
The proposal would allow up to four hens, no roosters would be allowed. The owners could not sell or even give away “chicken by-products” at the home, according to Town Attorney Richard Kaufman.
The proposed zoning rules also would require a 6-foot-tall fence and would restrict the location of the chicken coop. People wishing to keep chickens would have to get a permit, which could be obtained with a staff-level process, not requiring review by the Town Council or other boards and commissions.
With the rising popularity of the local food movement, residents in communities throughout the region have been advocating for fewer restrictions on backyard hens.
Fairfax County allows chickens on lots two acres or larger without seeking county permission, or on smaller lots by applying for a special permit that comes with a $435 fee.
Arlington County is also considering loosening its restrictions on backyard hens, which currently are so restrictive that most residents cannot legally keep hens.