Residents in unincorporated Pinellas County will now be able to raise chickens in their backyards without having to worry about breaking any laws.
Pinellas County Commissioners approved an ordinance allowing backyard chickens on Dec. 20. Commissioners voted 5-2 after hearing from at least a half dozen residents who spoke in support of the proposal during the marathon meeting, which ended after 1 a.m.
Many residents spoke about how raising chickens has helped them feed their families during tough economic times. Marilyn Bartalow told commissioners she lives on a limited budget and raising chickens has allowed her to stay off welfare and food stamps. Bartalow says she often trades chicken eggs for fruit and vegetables grown by other families.
Bill Shultz, of Largo, wore a t-shirt to the meeting that said "Chicks Dig Me". He told commissioners that it only costs him $10 a day to feed his family of three because he raises chickens and has a garden.
Shultz also says his chickens don't stray. "Most of my neighbors don't even know I have chickens," he said.
Lisa McBride, who brought the proposal before commissioners, told them that raising chickens can have a great economic benefit for families.
"A family can significantly reduce their expenses by keeping a garden and raising poultry," she said. "You're offering people a great opportunity to provide for themselves."
The ordinance allows residents to keep up to four chickens. All chickens would be required to be kept in coops and roosters would not be allowed. Prior to the vote, chickens were already allowed in agricultural areas of Pinellas County and in some cities including Dunedin, Gulfport, Largo, St. Petersburg and Belleair.