- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 16, 2014

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - City commissioners in Pierre have defeated a proposal that would have allowed residents of South Dakota’s capital city to keep up to six hens on their property.

The 5-0 decision Tuesday night followed 1 ½ hours of public discussion. More than 100 people turned out for the debate, crowding the commission room and two overflow areas, according to the Capital Journal and KCCR radio.

Supporters of the ordinance said they should be allowed to keep chickens to raise their own food and have the birds as pets. Jennifer McIntyre said chickens are not the nuisances many people believe them to be.

“If you go back to somebody’s backyard and find they have chickens, it’s because you went into their backyard,” she said.

Opponents worried about possible noise and smell issues and the effect on property values.

“Those who think they should raise chickens in Pierre are only thinking of themselves and not their neighbors who don’t want chickens in their neighborhood,” said Kathy Lucas.

Many commissioners said they found the proposal too broad, and they worried about the burden it would place on the city to license chickens and enforce the ordinance.

“If this were to pass, I can only imagine the squabbles that would be brought to the city,” Commissioner Jamie Huizenga said.

Anne Lewis, organizer of Pierre Urban Chicken Reform, said the citizen group will begin working on another proposal.

“Effecting change is never easy or fast, but it’s worth it,” she said.

The issue of backyard chickens has arisen in other South Dakota cities recently. The Sioux Falls City Council a year ago voted to allow residents to keep up to six hens - but not roosters, which crow. A group of chicken advocates in Rapid City plans a second attempt at legalizing the bird within city limits there, after a failed attempt last summer.

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