Jean Rosborough knows a lot about chickens, having raised and sold them for several years.

She loves that the eggs they produce are rich in omegas and taste better than commercially raised eggs, she said.

“There’s good cholesterol in free-range chicken eggs, and there’s also a high level of vitamin D because they go outside. It’s just a very healthier-looking, fresh egg.”

Rosborough lived in Waterville in the 1990s and kept four chickens in her backyard off Pleasant Hill Drive; but after nearly a year, she was told by the city to stop because chickens are not allowed in any zone except rural residential. That zone is primarily south of the airport.

Vassalboro, where she now lives and has about three dozen chickens, does not prohibit the birds.

“That’s why I live here,” Rosborough said.

Waterville city councilors on Tuesday are scheduled to consider allowing people in certain parts of the city to have up to six laying hens, under specific conditions, on their properties.

The council must take three votes on the issue and may take one or two votes Tuesday and a third one later.

It is not the first time the city has considered allowing loosening the regulations.

In January 2010, councilors voted 7-0 to approve changes to the city’s zoning ordinance that would allow residents to have up to six chickens, but then-Mayor Paul LePage vetoed the decision.

LePage, now Maine’s governor, said at the time that he had been contacted by more than 30 residents who opposed allowing chickens and he knew of only three who spoke in favor of allowing them within city limits.

The Planning Board on Monday voted 6-0 to recommend that the council adopt certain provisions associated with allowing chickens and adopt stricter violation and enforcement provisions.

The board had a lengthy discussion about the difficulties of enforcing performance standards and whether there should be a stiff penalty for violating the ordinance, according to City Planner Ann Beverage.

The proposed standards for housing chickens would ban roosters, allowing only hens; and would probit slaughtering chickens or keeping birds bred for meat.

Owners would have to have at least 10,000 square feet of land and keep chickens in enclosed areas except during daylight hours, when they could be in outdoor wire pens.

Henhouses and pens would have to be at least 15 feet from side and rear property lines and at least 20 feet from the nearest residence. Henhouses must be raised off the ground and enclosed on all sides.

Mayor Karen Heck supports allowing chickens.

“More and more people are concerned about where their food is coming from,” she said. “Getting their own eggs is important, and it’s happening all over the country; so why wouldn’t it happen in Waterville, Maine?”

Rosborough’s primary reason for having chickens is to raise and sell them, but she does sell eggs as well, she said.

The only time her neighbors complain is when she has about 20 roosters on her property in the fall (the rest of the year she typically has only two), she said. Her neighbors don’t call the town to complain; they merely mention the roosters to her in passing, she said.

“I get no complains about the hens at all,” she said.

Rosborough’s chickens are Buckeyes and Dominiques, which are heritage breeds, or the original stock breeds of the U.S., she said. She sells most of her chickens at the Common Ground Country Fair, she said.

Her chickens are free-range, meaning they go out of the coop and into the sunlight and peck off the ground.

“They’re loose. They stay on the property. They don’t go very far from their own roost,” she said. “They kind of learn the property area; they don’t wander off. They’re very quiet. The only sound they make is when they lay an egg, and it’s really brief.”

Rosborough says she doesn’t have an odor problem with her hens, because she fills the pens with 2 1/2 to 3 feet of dry leaves and mulch hay and it and the hen waste eventually becomes compost, breaks down and doesn’t smell bad.

She feeds them chicken pellets, but also a lot of food scraps, she said.

“I don’t give meat to my birds, but anything else, from leftover spaghetti to pumpkin pie, vegetables and peelings. It supplements the grain cost and acts like compost.”

She said each of her hens lays an egg an average of every 24 to 33 hours.

Amy Calder — 861-9247

[email protected]


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