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Indianapolis updates zoning code to include rules for chickens, other animals

The changes are meant to foster growth and address the changing landscape.  Hence the new rules on chickens, goats, donkeys and mules.
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New rules took effect in Indianapolis Friday on everything from parking and sidewalks to landscaping and livestock.

It's been nearly five decades since the city has updated its zoning code. The changes are meant to foster growth and address the changing landscape. Hence the new rules on chickens, goats, donkeys and mules.

"Indianapolis is a collection of vibrant, distinctive neighborhoods that will no longer be limited by an outdated code. The revisions include details designed to enhance the quality of life for the entirety of our city," said Mayor Joe Hogsett.

Among other things, the revised code requires new bike facilities, stipulates where parking can be located and how of it is required, changes landscape requirements, establishes preferred species of trees, modernizes mixed use districts and allows new uses for buildings in certain areas, vacant for more than five years.

There are also new rules on chickens, rabbits, goats, donkeys, mules and horses.

Urban chicken farming, in particular, has really caught on, but as John Neal, a senior planner with Department of Metropolitan Development said, regulations "have been ambiguous at best."

Neal said "as that movement has grown with more neighbors having them, the question is how far will this go? We want to make clear we are allowing it but the ordinance spells out when you can do something and the limits."

The limits are now set at 12 chickens per household and one rooster.  The code also requires roosters to be kept inside an enclosed coop or structure from dusk-to-dawn, to quiet the crowing.

As for miniature goats, the limit is three per quarter acre of land.  For miniature horses it's two per acre.

Andrew Brake co-owns Agrarian, a store located at 54th near the Monon Trail devoted to chickens.  It sells everything from chicks to feed to coops.

He agrees the urban chicken farming has exploded with well over 1,000 "urban chicken farmers" on the north side of Indianapolis alone.

But he also questions the need for the ordinance.

"I'm not trying to take a stance but it seems they're putting something on books that doesn't need to be," he said. "I understand they want to get ahead of a problem but we don't but we don't have one."

Cher Kimbrough and Samuel Hahn-Conti have a rooster and four hens. They got into urban chicken farming last year after getting a kick out of their neighbors chickens.

Cher said, "It was more of a novelty to me, having something fun. They're very entertaining and it's nice to have their eggs.  We give them away to the neighbors."

While they have no plans to expand their flock beyond seven, they do chuckle at trying to keep their rooster from crowing.

"That's hilarious, so funny to me," Cher laughed with Samuel adding, "He's going to crow the same whether he's here or over there (in the coop) and it's going to be the same noise."

Still the couple said they will follow the rules.

"Our plan is to not get in trouble with the chickens," Cher said.

Again, the new livestock provision is just one of the many revisions made to the zoning code and it was long in making.

Neal said he was working on it "one way or another for five years."

He said the research including bringing in national experts and collecting best practices from other cities.

Austin, Texas and Detroit, for instance also have urban livestock ordinances.

Neal said the overhaul was more comprehensive thanks to a $1.2 million HUD grant.

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