One chicken per 1000 square feet okayed in La Mesa

Art Madrid and the rooster on Maryland Avenue notwithstanding

The La Mesa City Council voted 4-1 on March 25 to amend the municipal code and allow people to keep domestic fowl such as chickens in single-family residential zones. Roosters are prohibited, and councilmembers called for a one-year review of the issue.

Mayor Art Madrid voted against the zoning change, saying, "There's more to it than having a nice chicken that lays eggs." Madrid said his concerns included "appeasing one segment of the population…. This is an urban community."

The council made some changes to the zoning change recommended by the planning commission on February 19. Commissioners recommended allowing one bird per 2000 square feet of lot area, with a maximum of 20 fowl. The council raised the amount to two birds per 2000 square feet in this city where the average lot size is 6000 square feet. The council also added a requirement that enclosures (coops) are covered to protect birds.

Before the vote, councilman Mark Arapostathis asked about regulations related to potbellied pigs.

Community development director Bill Chopyk said that two potbellied pigs are allowed.

The pigs are permitted on a lot that is 6000 square feet or larger. Also allowed on lots that size are two dogs and from two to 10 cats. According to a city report, the number of adult felines may be increased "if those cats exceeding the first two are spayed or neutered."

The city permitted 20 fowl on 15,000-square-foot lots, a designation removed when the amendment was approved.

Vice mayor Kristine Alessio said some residents kept chickens illegally and asked how many complaints the city received. Chopyk said the city code-enforcement officer was investigating a complaint from two days earlier about a rooster on Maryland Avenue. He said the city received less than 10 chicken complaints during the previous six months.

During the hearing, resident Heidi Grettenberger spoke about her legal chickens. She said her chickens are quiet and that a bird may lay one egg a day. "They may squawk to let us know they have an egg. Our neighbors love us because we share our eggs with them."

Arapostathis asked what happened after birds stop producing eggs. Grettenberger said some people eat the birds. "We have children," she said. "We haven't faced that yet."

Complaints caused elementary school-age siblings Addie and Ellie Tweet to relocate their chickens and rally for the amendment. "I used to have chickens, and I really want them back," said Addie.

Rex Smith said his neighbor's chickens drew flies to his house.

Virginia Rodriguez said that the presence of chickens at two nearby homes attracted "predators" to her Lemon Avenue neighborhood. Rodriguez said predators "got" neighbors' chickens and killed a neighbor's dog.

"We lived in our house for 48 years, and we never saw a coyote in our yard until the chickens came. This is not a sweet little farming community; we're an urban neighborhood. When people have chickens in Lakeside, they protect their chickens with guns."

Madrid raised issues such as the whether the presence of chickens would discourage people from moving to La Mesa.

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Yes Mayor Madrid, I seriously had considered relocating to the La Mesa area, but since the introduction of farming to that beautiful community I have second thoughts. Years ago in San Diego people raised chickens in their back yards, but at that time we had a much less population then we have today and homes were on larger lots. As the population grew and houses were built on much smaller lots the birds flew the coups and for good reason. They smell, they can be noisy and they do draw predators. If some of the La Mesan's have a desire to get into the field of farming then how about a community Victory Garden. Veggies are the wave of the future and are odor free.

I'm thrilled that my 4 chickens are now legal. That being said it amazes me how often I see people who try to blame natural acts on these chickens. So let me break a few things down:

  • prior to getting my chickens there were many coyotes roaming my neighborhood even though I am not too close to the canyons. They are moving into the neighborhoods. This has nothing to do with anyone having chickens and to propose this is purely idiotic thinking.
  • I also have 2 small dogs and a cat. Many people in my neighborhood have dogs. Many in my neighborhood have outdoor cats as well. My chickens do "squawk" just prior to laying and right after laying. I can barely hear this from the coop into my house. BUT I can hear my neighbors dogs barking all hours of the day. I can hear the guys dogs up the street barking through the night. I have had cat fights in my backyard. These are all legal animals and have been legal for many years. The barking in my opinion is just normal daily barking. Just as my chicken squawking is normal daily squawking. Which as a side note I have asked both neighbors if they hear the squawking and both have stated they do not hear this.
  • Flies being drawn to your house, then I suggest you clean your front and back yard better. The reality of this is that I have never seen flies in or near any coop I have been around. This includes my own when I have failed to clean it for a longer period of time then I should have. My dogs poop smells worse then the chicken coop and I won't even comment on the cat poop.
  • Why do I have chickens? I have 3 kids who love eggs and my 4 chickens produce enough eggs so that I only have to purchase eggs during a 2 month period over the year. This saves my family hundreds of dollars every year. Our chickens are not pets, they are food for our family. Our family is self employed and with the continued cost of living we have to look for ways to save money and this is a great way to save money.
  • You cannot blame a chicken coop for a predator that is in your neighborhood. They are in every neighborhood in La Mesa. Small animals should not be left out. A rattlesnake attacked 2 dogs a couple years ago by northmont elementary school. No where near a canyon they houses were close together but it happened. We have moved into their territory and the more we impede their territory the more they will come after our animals.
  • And keep in mind pot bellied pigs have been legal for years, do you realize that these pigs grow to the size of 100 pounds and smell terrible. They attract can attract flies.
  • Maybe just maybe instead of complaining about your neighbor be friendly with your neighbor and your will no longer have to buy your eggs. I know I always have extra eggs and my neighbors love my chickens. Get to know their routine. See what happens. Go over there and check it out. You may be surprised instead of making assumptions.

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