Chickens search for bugs in the garden of Daniela Williams and Wes Hepker in North Liberty. (photo/Daniela Williams)

Chickens search for bugs in the North Liberty garden of Daniela Williams and Wes Hepker. The City Council will consider readopting the urban chicken ordinance at its meeting Nov. 11, 2014.  (photo/Daniela Williams)

NORTH LIBERTY – The North Liberty City Council will consider readopting the town’s urban chicken ordinance at its meeting this Tuesday, Nov. 11.

Just over a year ago, the council approved the ordinance, which allows residents to keep up to four hens in city limits. Roosters are not allowed. At the same time, a clause allows the ordinance to expire after one year, if council members don’t again approve the measure.

Daniela Williams, one of the backers of the ordinance, said she hoped the council would not only readopt the ordinance, but make a few changes, such as allowing residents to keep up to six hens, rather than four.

Altogether, five households obtained permits to keep chickens in North Liberty in the past year.

The chicken coop used by Daniela Williams for her four chickens is shown at its site in North Liberty. (photo/Daniela Williams)

The chicken coop used by Daniela Williams’ four hens is shown at its site in North Liberty. (photo/Daniela Williams)

Daniela sent these photos of her chicken coop – which blends wonderfully in the yard – and her hens hard at work in her garden.

At the same meeting this Tuesday, the City Council will discuss a new community garden.

The North Liberty Community Pantry is seeking donations by Dec. 15 to help build a 9,600-square-foot teaching garden to provide free, healthy food for low-income families and to encourage healthy food choices throughout the community.

See these related stories and read more about the teaching garden and the urban chicken ordinance below:

Chickens allowed in North Liberty

Neighbors can’t peck at chicken owners

Video: Picking up chicks in Iowa

Here is more from the Community Pantry about the garden proposal, followed by Daniela’s letter to the City Council:

“Our goals are to expand access to healthy food for families, encourage healthy food choices, and teach families we serve and community members how to grow food for their own consumption,” pantry director Tina DuBois said. “We need community gifts by December 15 to collect The Wellmark Foundation dollar-for-dollar match.”

The garden project will provide classes on nutrition, food-preparation, and garden planning, plus hands-on participation in soil-bed preparation, planting, harvesting, preparing, and preserving food for consumption throughout the year. The event will include speakers about the need for the garden, the garden’s components, the benefits of community gardening, and the need for donations to match a $38,500 challenge grant from The Wellmark Foundation.

“The Gardening for Health project is a great opportunity to provide hands-on garden to table education for the entire community,” said Stephanie Perry, The Wellmark Foundation. “This project was one of fifteen competitively awarded grants to create pilot efforts or expand health initiatives throughout Iowa and South Dakota focused on childhood obesity prevention and community-based wellness projects.”

Harvested food will be provided free to pantry clients, who also will learn to harvest, prepare, and preserve the food. The pantry will partner with the North Liberty free summer lunch program for kids, provide a free farmers’ market for pantry clients, and provide educational activities for the entire community.

Project planners already include a farmer, a greenhouse operator, a Johnson County Master Gardener intern, and Scott Koepke Education Outreach Coordinator with New Pioneer’s Soilmates program.
“This is not going to be your typical garden,” Koepke said. “This is a garden designed to be sustainable for years to come, and will be large enough to provide a nutritional food source for hundreds of people in need, along with the intrinsic community-wide educational benefits. Research affirms the therapy of gardens on communities. We need your help to build an efficient food source to serve people in the long term, because food insecurity is not going away anytime soon. ”

“The educational components of the Gardening for Health Project will extend beyond our clients, as well,” DuBois said. “Opportunities for learning by all members of our community will range from classes on nutrition, food-preparation, and garden planning, plus hands-on participation in soil-bed preparation, planting, and harvesting.”

For more details, visit the pantry’s website. A fundraiser, including a bake sale, craft sale, and pie-tasting contest, is planned for Nov. 23.

Letter to the City Council regarding urban chickens:

Mayor and City Council Members –

It has been about a year since the approval of the Urban Chicken Ordinance, and it is only a few short months away from sun setting if it is not renewed.

Over the past year we have thoroughly enjoyed our four hens and would appreciate having the sunset clause removed. It has been a great learning experience for both us and our neighbors, especially the children who live near us. We have met other residents in North Liberty that raise chickens, and we have all had similar, great experiences.

If up for discussion, there are a few items we would like to see amended in the ordinance. These suggested changes more closely match the ordinance in Cedar Rapids that. I believe the restrictions have led to successful, and happy owners and neighbors in their city. The Cedar Rapids ordinance can be found at:

Click to access Ordinance%20No.%20030-10.pdf

Section 1.F – 25 feet from any property line – We believe this should be changed to reflect the distance from the neighbor’s dwelling, not their yard. We understand this was in place to prevent people with long yards placing the coop at the far end, especially when the neighbor behind has a short yard. However, from going through a winter with chickens, I don’t foresee anyone wanting to place a coop at an inconvenient distance from their own house. We suggest the distance be changed to reference the neighbor’s dwelling vs the property line.
Section 1.F – No larger than 12 square feet of area for each chicken – With this wording, it restricts hens from free-ranging in a fenced-in back yard. We suggest removing the maximum size restriction.
Section 1.J – 4 Hen Maximum – Chickens are herding animals, and therefore should be kept as a herd. In addition, when introducing hens into an existing flock, it is recommended to introduce two at a time. If starting with new chicks, this requires the owner to be down to two laying hens for 6 months, which is not enough eggs to sustain a family. We suggest increasing the maximum to 6 hens.
Section 2.I – Subject to Private Restrictions – The city cannot enforce private restrictions, and therefore should not be included in the ordinance. We believe the last sentence in the section should be stricken.
RESOLUTION NO. 13-122 – deposit of $250.00 – Currently there is no wording on when this fee will be refunded. We suggest adding a time frame, such as 1 or 2 years, where after such time the fee will be refunded if the owner is in good standings.
We greatly appreciate the opportunity to have chickens in city limits. Thank you for the time and effort you put in last year to make it a success. Let us know if we can help in any way.

-Daniela Williams and Wes Hepker