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Tuesday, Jul 22, 2014
Northwest News

Backyard chicken expert offers advice for novices

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LUTZ — Local governments have been relaxing regulations governing backyard chickens but residents who take the plunge without investigating might run afoul of local laws. That’s the word from Diana Kyle of Forest Hills, a naturalist who will explain the ins and outs of the popular hobby during a program at the Lutz Branch Library at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. “The No. 1 issue is what everybody needs to do is find out what their zoning is,” Kyle said. Backyard chickens are legal in the city of Tampa, but chickens in unincorporated Hillsborough County are restricted to property zoned agricultural, she said. Even where legal, certain restrictions apply, usually a limit of four hens, no roosters.

Kyle has lived on a “chicken-legal” acre lot since 1985, owning as many as 17 birds at a time. Some came from homeowners who jumped into the hobby, only to learn from a code enforcement inspector that backyard chickens were not allowed.

Kyle said that’s a common mistake: “People around me are getting chickens, I will, too.” They build a fancy coop, paint it to match their home and fill it with chickens, only to be faced with the realities of ordinances or deed restrictions, the latter trumping local laws.

“People get really upset when, in fact, you need to know what the rules are in your area,” Kyle said. “You just end up investing a lot, including your heart; it’s a pet, and you get attached to them.”

That leads to an additional obligation.

“It is an animal, and that animal has a right to live in a healthy environment, so you have a responsibility to read everything you can get form libraries, online, to find out how to properly take care of them,” Kyle said.

Some novices may not consider things like protecting chickens from raccoons and summer heat.

Kyle gives talks on various topics at local libraries. Last month’s backyard chicken talk drew 100 adults and children to South Tampa’s Jan Platt Kaminis Regional Library. From personal experience, Kyle provides tips on confining backyard chickens to prevent attacks on a neighbor’s rose bed and digging craters in the yard in a search for worms.

A few final points: “If you think you’re saving money — I don’t think so. If you think you’re eating really good, you are. You know what you’re putting into your chicken’s mouth, and you are what you eat,” she said. “There’s nothing better than fresh eggs.”

gwilkens@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7124

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