Overland Park became the latest JoCo city to allow residents to keep backyard chickens.

Backyard chicken coops have become an increasingly popular pastime in recent years. Along with fresh eggs, chickens provide other perks: they control pests, are a natural fertilizer source and make for lively pets. 

After a successful two-year pilot program, Overland Park residents are now officially allowed to keep chickens in their backyards as long as their lot is larger than .20 acres. Before the 2021 pilot program, chickens were allowed, but only on lots larger than three acres. While exceptions were made, residents on smaller lots had to go through an arduous and cumbersome permitting process requiring approval from both the Overland Park Planning Commission and City Council. The pilot program’s main aim was to streamline the permitting process and reduce the number of hours city officials spent on chicken-related issues. 

Although OP residents can now keep chickens, the birds don’t get free range of the city. There are a host of rules poultry owners must comply with. According to the newly passed ordinance, only hens are allowed—no roosters—and the number of chickens per lot is dependent on size. Coops must be well constructed and placed within a certain distance from surrounding property lines and homes, and the new ordinance does not supersede HOA rules.

Overland Park is only the most recent Johnson County city to allow backyard chicken keeping. Six other communities, including Shawnee and Prairie Village, have all passed ordinances allowing chickens on smaller lots. Leawood has also considered allowing chickens in recent years. People wanting to keep chickens are generally interested in the potential health and sustainability benefits. 

One resident chicken keeper says: “It was a learning process with my kids building the coop and taking care of the baby chicks. They are definitely pets and very gentle and love treats, and they love to free range in our backyard.” She cautions, though, that chicken keeping may not be for everyone. “People don’t really realize how much work it is,” she says. 

At a Public Safety Committee meeting in July, OP Councilman Faris Farassati said he is concerned about the general nuisance of raising chickens in populated residential areas. “There is still a nuisance factor in having a chicken coop next to my yard,” Farassati said. 

Former Councilmember Paul Lyons, who voted against the initial pilot program, has opposed the idea of “farm animals” being raised in neighborhoods. 

Despite public concerns, the pilot seemed to be a success. The city received more than 50 permit applications, approved 31 and yielded minimal complaints from residents and neighbors. Emily Riddle, chief animal control officer and supervisor, reported to City Council that of the complaints filed, the majority expressed concern over existing unpermitted chickens and were not a result of the pilot program.   

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