The measure, introduced by Sen. David Farnsworth, an east Mesa Republican, would prevent cities from adopting ordinances banning fowl in the backyard of a single-family home. Cities could restrict the number of chickens per yard and outlaw roosters, except for ones that no longer crow. Silent ones get a pass.
If Chandler’s recent experience with a proposal to lift a no-chicken policy is any indication, SB 1151 will stir a dispute over conflicting individual rights, a debate as old as the chicken or the egg.
Arizona cities have a hodgepodge of ordinances regulating fowl, but Chandler doesn’t allow chickens and roosters in neighborhoods except ones with large lots or agricultural areas.
When the Chandler City Council mulled a change to its no-chicken ordinance in July, about 75 people showed up for the meeting. Property rights advocates were pitted against people who don’t want the cackling and odor that comes with living next door to a bunch of chickens.
Farnsworth’s bill suggests the debate goes far beyond Chandler, observing that “property rights of property owners in this state are of statewide concern.”
The Chandler City Council voted 4 to 3 against the proposal, which would have allowed up to five chickens in a yard.
“(SB 1151) would basically bring back what we discussed,” said Jim Phipps, a Chandler spokesman.
The bill has been assigned to the Senate Committee on Government and Environment, but no hearing date has been set.
Farnsworth said banning chickens in backyards is not the role of cities. He called bans and severe restrictions “kind of ridiculous.”
“The proper role of government according to the U.S. Constitution and the Arizona Constitution is to protect the liberty of the people,” he said. “Liberty of the people is being eroded, particularly property rights.”
He said that, growing up in Mesa, his family had not only chickens but also rabbits and goats.
“And it’s a good thing we did,” Farnsworth said. “Otherwise we might be short on things to eat.”
He isn’t alone in his sentiment: 21 other legislators out of the 90 at the Capitol have signed on as cosponsors.
Farnsworth acknowledged that a next-door neighbor might not want a chicken pen right up against the fence. But he said that right to live in a chicken-free zone is limited.
“I’ve come to the conclusion that our own property rights on our property need to be supreme,” he said.
Ken Strobeck, executive director of the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, said it’s not that simple.
“I think the issue is, whose freedom are you protecting?” he said, adding that people who buy homes in urban areas have certain expectations of what life will be like.
“If there are noises or smells or things that are not anticipated when they purchased in that neighborhood, then their property rights are being infringed on,” he said.
Includes information from Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services