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Backyard chickens take off in Mandan

Backyard chickens take off in Mandan

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Andrea Soule and her daughters Gemma, 9, left, and Malaya, 10, hold four hens while standing in front of the chicken coop built in the backyard of their Mandan home. The hens named Chicken Nugget, Chicken Pot Pie, Lily and Lollipop have produced about three eggs a day, but Andrea Soule believes they will be laying more in the coming weeks.

Gary and Renee Brucker's beloved pets are chickens.

Four hens, to be exact.

“They’re kind of hard on my wife’s flowers, but it’s fun having them,” Gary Brucker said.

The Bruckers hold one of nine permits for backyard chickens granted since the Mandan City Commission adopted an ordinance in March allowing the poultry in city limits after requests from residents who wanted to raise the birds for fresh eggs. City Planner John Van Dyke said most applications have been granted, usually within 10 days. 

The ordinance allows up to four hens, but no crowing roosters, and outlines setbacks from property lines and adjacent neighbors. The chickens, coop and run also must not be visible from the street.

Permittees must build or buy a coop in compliance with certain specifications. Permits are $100, revocable, good for a year and cost $50 to renew.

Van Dyke, Deputy Police Chief Lori Flaten and some chicken permittees say the birds so far haven't generated complaints. Opposition to the proposed ordinance largely focused on waste and odors from the birds, potential problems which Van Dyke said are mitigated in applicants' site planning.

Brucker said he cleans the coop by hand every morning and installed lattice wire on the backyard fence and deck. He and other permittees said their neighbors are aware of the chickens.

Some of the birds have already started laying eggs, albeit small ones, he said. The Bruckers saved their eggs to have enough for breakfast. They've wanted to raise chickens since they married 48 years ago.

Jeremy and Anita Bohner acquired four hens in April and each of their children, ages 7, 9, 10 and 12, named one: Drama Queen, Chillin' With My Peeps, Floppy and Cheese. 

"We actually have harnesses so we can walk them," Anita Bohner said. Her family hopes to have eggs by September.

The Bruckers also named their chickens, which they like to watch in their backyard in the evening. The four hens are each of a different breed. They're named Lacy, Astro, Cuckoo and Red. 

"When you have four, you become quite attached to them," Brucker said. "I told Renee the other day, I said I couldn't eat them."

Andrea Soule kept backyard chickens while living in Alaska and was glad to see Mandan adopt the ordinance. The birds started laying eggs in the last month and are pretty family friendly, she said.

"My kids like to play with them and feed them treats," Soule said.

Their hens are named, too: Chicken Nugget, Chicken Pot Pie, Lily and Lollipop.

"They're fun to keep around," Soule said.

So far, the families' chickens have proven fun but hard work.

Brucker had to insulate the coop he bought. Soule had to remove a rooster chick. Bohner's children built their coop from a Runnings kit.

Van Dyke doesn't expect many more applications for permits this year. Coops are expensive, and there's winter and maintenance of the birds to consider, he added.

"It is a lot of work. It's definitely for the committed," Van Dyke said.

Reach Jack Dura at 701-250-8225 or jack.dura@bismarcktribune.com.

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