A chicken eyes spectators at the Cleveland County Fair on Sept. 11, 2021. (Andrea DenHoed)

Depending on the outcome of a City Council vote expected to take place in February, Oklahoma City residents could soon be able to count their chickens — and legally keep them.

A proposed ordinance change would allow residents to keep up to six chickens or quail in a backyard setting, provided the animals have shelter overnight, such as a chicken coop. Roosters would not be permitted, and residents could not slaughter chickens on their property under the proposed change.

Currently, it’s mostly illegal to keep chickens in a backyard in Oklahoma City, unless the property spans at least one acre.

The change has been proposed by councilmembers Bradley Carter, JoBeth Hamon and Nikki Nice, of Wards 1, 6 and 7, and the City Council is scheduled to vote on the measure Feb. 1.

Residents speak out for and against chickens

A number of Oklahoma City residents spoke about the chicken issue at the council’s meeting Tuesday, with most speakers saying they favored the change.

Supporters argue chickens are clean and easy to raise in a backyard setting while providing a healthy source of food through their eggs.

Oklahoma City resident Pat Batchelder told the council she favors allowing residents to raise chickens in their backyards.

“I have raised chickens, lived with chickens and loved it,” Batchelder said. “I find them delightful creatures to be around. I love their eggs. I came from a farm family in upstate Oklahoma, and I think a lot of people who live in Oklahoma City have agricultural roots. I think we need to be growing food in the city as well as the country.”

Sarah Braden, who has been a longtime advocate for urban chickens in Oklahoma City, also spoke in favor of the measure.

“For one thing, it’s not chicken farming,” Braden said. “This is people having six or fewer backyard hens or quail. We’re really talking about backyard pets, like cats and dogs. The concern about noise — about backyard chickens making noise or causing dogs to bark incessantly — is not really an issue.”

Ward 2 Councilmember James Cooper said the concept is popular in his ward.

“Even though I’m not a co-sponsor of this, it has my support,” Cooper said to Braden, who lives in his ward. “You’re speaking right now for many of the residents I heard in Ward 2 through my door-knocking, so I have a lot of gratitude to you for bringing a voice to sustainability.”

Opponent talks salmonella, predators

Only one person showed up Tuesday to speak out against the proposed ordinance change. Laura Johnson told the council she thinks having chickens in dense urban areas is a bad idea.

“The CDC website says that chickens carry salmonella,” she said. “I think that creates an especially difficult situation. Also, chickens can attract predators to your yard. Whether it’s a snake, a hawk or even a rat, they are attracted to the animal, their feed and even the egg.”

Johnson also argued that chickens can create noise problems, even if no roosters are present, and can agitate neighborhood dogs.

“I think we should be able to enjoy our backyards,” she said.

Watch OKC City Council meetings live

The OKC City Council typically meets every other Tuesday morning, with all municipal meetings listed on the city’s public meeting calendar and agendas posted on another page. City Council meetings are streamed on the city’s YouTube page.