The contentious issue of backyard chickens was before another Wisconsin city council Tuesday night. This time in Medford, where Joe Kohn has had three birds in his yard for the past year and a half. “My wife and I never meant for this to come to this,” Kohn told the council. “We were living our little quiet existence on our street with our garden and our chickens, and none of our immediate neighbors complained.” It might have remained that way, but another resident, noting the Kohn’s chickens during a garage sale this summer, was told the city didn’t allow the keeping of chickens.
Tuesday’s vote was on an ordinance that would prohibit “domestic foul from being kept, fed, or bred within city limits.” The only exception would be for retail establishments that sell chicks. All 8 council members were present for the meeting. With approximately 65 visitors in attendance, 12 citizens individually addressed the council for approximately one hour, with all 12 speaking in favor of allowing pet chickens to live in the city. Kohn’s next door neighbor, Jeff Miller, didn’t see what the big deal is. “There’s no noise, I’ve never had a problem with them. They’ve been there for over a year, and I’ve talked to lots of other people in other communities, and they just think it’s crazy that so much time is being spent on trying to get chickens out of the city of city of Medford,” said Miller. Kurt Gibbon, citing a recent trip to Portland Oregon, told council members that urban chickens are becoming a very common thing. He also noted that Madison allows the birds. “I’ve known the Kohns for close to fifty years,” said Kevin Wells. “They’re people who have always been close to the things that mattered in Medford. My point is, we close it off, we shut it off, we change the face of Medford.”
After council members discussed the ordinance for approximately 20 minutes, a roll call vote was taken. The vote ended in a tie, with 4 voting for the ordinance to prohibit domestic foul and 4 voting against it the ordinance. Mayor Mike Wellner broke the tie, voting in favor of prohibiting the birds. Chickens, said Wellner, belong in the country. According to the new ordinance, any person, firm, or corporation that violates any provisions of the ordinance, shall upon conviction, forfeit $10 per day from the date the citation is issued. Frustration was very evident as the large group of “pet chicken supporters” filed out of city hall after their defeat.
Paula Liske, WIGM