North Liberty, Iowa, tweaked its chicken ordinance to allow hens to have free-range in their own backyards. (photo/Homegrown Iowan)

By Cindy Hadish

Chickens will have free range to roam in their own backyards after a mayoral veto was overridden by the North Liberty City Council this week.

On a 4-1 vote, with Annie Pollack voting “no,” the council overrode Mayor Terry Donahue’s veto of the livestock ordinance amendment, passed on its third and final reading in May.

The ordinance allows the entire rear yard to serve as an “unenclosed pen,” as opposed to just the coop and chicken run.

Related: Chickens allowed in North Liberty

Brent Smith, Chris Hoffman, RaQuishia Harrington and Bryan Wayson voted to override the veto, enough for the needed supermajority for the measure to take effect.

During the meeting on June 22, 2021, Donahue cited potential conflicts with homeowners associations among his reasons for the veto.

He also noted in a memo that he was opposed to chickens being allowed free range to the property line. “By doing so, we are infringing on the property rights of neighbors and/or tenants,” he wrote.

The mayor said he wanted to avoid a “brouhaha” with North Liberty HOAs and protect residents who might obtain a permit and build a chicken coop, only to be told by the HOA that they are prohibited by the association from keeping hens.

Council members said residents should investigate HOA rules before embarking on such an investment.

Just six permits to keep chickens are active in North Liberty, council member Chris Hoffman noted.

“From everything I’ve read, chickens are good for the environment,” he said, citing ticks and other bugs that chickens eat and waste that is better for the soil than dog or cat waste.

In 2013, North Liberty passed an ordinance to allow residents to seek a permit to keep up to four chickens per household, with no roosters allowed. That number was increased to six hens the following year.

The new amendment also addresses other items, including eliminating the banding requirement for each chicken and requiring only one wing to be clipped.

More: Video: Picking up chicks in Iowa