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E-i-e-i-o: Pittsburgh eases path for chickens, urban farming

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Aspiring young McDonalds will find it easier to have an urban farm in Pittsburgh with a chicken and a duck here, and maybe even a goat there.

City Council has simplified an ordinance governing people who want to keep small farm animals on their property. The old law required fees totaling $340 and a permitting process that could take up to three months.

The new one, approved Tuesday and Mayor Bill Peduto is eager to sign, drops the cost to $70 and the time needed to get a permit to a single day.

Advocates of urban farming and being able to control one’s food supply are praising the move.

“I think it’s important because I think there’s a big move to going back to having backyard vegetable gardens, backyard chickens,” said Jody Noble-Choder, who organizes an annual Chicks in the Hood urban chicken coop tour. She also runs an urban farm and bed-and-breakfast in the city.

“I think we’ve gotten away from where our food comes from,” she said.

Several other cities around the country have eased rules for urban farms in recent years, including Dallas, Chicago and Oakland, California.

Under the new Pittsburgh ordinance, residents who live on lots at least 2,000 square feet can now get permits for up to five chickens or ducks, or two dehorned miniature goats. Residents on larger lots may qualify to keep additional chickens or ducks, and those with more than 15,000 square feet can keep at least one extra goat, plus one more for each additional 5,000 square feet they own.

Jana Thompson of Pittsburgh Pro Poultry People helped write the ordinance with Noble-Choder. Thompson estimates the city has 400 to 500 illegal chicken coops. She hopes the ordinance will cut down on “renegade farmers” and encourage urban farmers to “do it correctly.”

Shelly Danko+Day, who concentrates on urban farming and food policies for the city’s planning department, said the old ordinance — passed in 2011 — was underutilized.

Only 13 people had received permits under the old ordinance. “It wasn’t a functioning section of the code, so we needed to update it,” she said.

The new ordinance sets requirements for the structures housing the animals, including that they should be covered, well-ventilated, dry, predator-resistant and maintained to prevent excrement from accumulating.

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