COLUMBUS — Local zoning rules could not prohibit residents from raising chickens, rabbits and other small livestock, so long as the animals are not creating a nuisance, under legislation being considered in the Ohio House.
Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Mount Lookout) offered HB 175 after hearing from a resident who was fined and threatened with jail time for having half a dozen backyard chickens.
"This bill allows every person in our state to grow food on their own property and to responsibly raise small livestock such as chickens and rabbits," Brinkman told members of the House’s Agriculture and Rural Development Committee Wednesday, where the bill had its first hearing. "Families will be able to exercise their freedom to provide their own healthy food for their families."
The legislation would allow property owners "to keep, harbor, breed or maintain" goats, chickens and similar fowl, rabbits and similar small livestock, according to an analysis by the state’s Legislative Service Commission.
(Roosters would not be allowed under the bill — Brinkman said many of the complaints he hears stem from the noise from the male fowl.)
Residents would have to ensure that their animals cause no noxious odors or unsanitary conditions and that livestock housing is solidly constructed and kept at least 10 feet from property lines.
The legislation also sets limits on the number of animals allowed, based on property sizes. And it would bar zoning regulations that prohibit certain non-commercial agricultural activities, so long as the latter are not creating a nuisance for neighbors.
"HB 175 is both simple and far reaching in its goals to help Ohioans achieve food freedom and food access," Brinkman said. "This bill allows every person in our state to grow food on their own property and to responsibly raise small livestock such as chickens and rabbits. Families will be able to exercise their freedom to provide their own healthy food for their families."
There were some concerns voiced during Wednesday’s committee hearing in the House. Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) questioned how the bill would affect residents who moved into cities controlled by zoning.
"There are people that live in the city that rely on zoning to give them the lifestyle that they want," he said. "I guess I’m concerned about home rule …."
Brinkman responded, "I would prefer not to have the prohibition… Let people responsibly have a chicken or two or three or whatever they can manage. I don’t think the neighbors would even know what’s going on… I trust the individuals to respect their neighbors but at the same time giving them the personal freedom to provide for themselves and their families."
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for GateHouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.