Chickens Vs. The Law in Bishop

A story about the legality of keeping chickens in backyard coops inside the Bishop City limits has touched a nerve. The Sierra Wave website continues to host a heated discussion on this issue.

Many Bishop residents, including two city council members, keep chickens in backyard coops, but right now it appears the law is unclear. An ordinance passed in 1966 prohibits, any poultry or animal yard within one hundred feet of any building used for residential purposes. The 100 foot limit leaves very few, if any, locations for poultry or animal yards in the City of Bishop. Where the controversy lies is in the definition of poultry or animal yard.

Backyard chicken supporters say that the law is intended to apply to commercial chicken coops. Those opposed to poultry say that the law bans all chicken coops. At the January 11th council meeting, City Administrator Rick Pucci explained that he and City Attorney Peter Tracy researched the origin of the law and could not find the councils intent from 1966. Pucci explained that the law specifically prohibits swine in the city, but, added the wording on poultry is different.

At the well-attended council meeting there were concerns about dirty coops and noise. The City currently has ordinances on these issues. One law prohibits animals and poultry other than household pets to run at large upon any public street. Another prohibits, disturbing noise and odor and diseased animals.

Rather than send this legal question to court or work on a new law at a meeting, the council approved a plan to have Community Services Director Keith Caldwell come up with a proposed chicken ordinance and bring it back to council for a vote at some point, although the Council also officially tabled the issue. Right now the plan left the issue open ended and people who have opinions on the matter are supposed to call Caldwell.

Possibilities already recommended by city staff include a clear definition of the word yard to mean either any yard, or commercial yard. If in fact, chickens are currently legal. There are no limits to how many a person can have. A new ordinance could clarify parameters on keeping poultry in what threatens to become a divisive issue.


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