Ancient Romans used chickens to predict the future. In wartime, soldiers observed the fowl’s behavior before battle. A fowl that refused to eat assured defeat, but a hen with a decent appetite spelled victory.
According to the writings of Cicero, in 249 BC, a Roman general had chickens thrown overboard when they refused to eat before the battle of Drepena.
“If they won’t eat, perhaps they will drink,” Cicero wrote. Ninety-three Roman ships were sunk in that battle against the Carthaginians.
There are few chickens in Gardner to foretell the future of backyard chickens in town. However, city officials will discuss making changes to city code that may allow backyard fowl in the future.
Residents who live in areas zoned “A” in Gardner can own chickens. There aren’t many homes in A zones, though. Mike Hall, Gardner Community Director, said for example, the area that used to house the KC Pumpkin Patch near Interstate 35 and 191st Street is zoned A, but the house attached to the property is zoned residential.
The vast majority of homes in Gardner are zoned residential-1 (R-1) or residential-2 (R-2), zones in which animal husbandry isn’t allowed.
With a special permit, however, chickens may be kept in those zones as pets on properties with three or more acres.
Nicky Janzen, Gardner, said among city dwellers, there’s a growing interest in agriculture.
“We are trying to go back to knowing where our food comes from,” Janzen said. “I think people really want to know where their food is coming from and grow their own.”
Janzen lives in Gardner and owns four chickens.
Urban farming, she explained, is growing in popularity.
“There is considerable discussion online,” she said. “This is pretty common around the country right now. There are people who want to raise their own eggs. Other cities have considered that and have modified their regulations to allow it.”
Edgerton briefly considered changes to its chicken regulations in January. After a brief debate, council members decided to continue to allow residents to raise fowl within city limits.
The city allows up to five chickens per acre within city limits. Anyone interested in owning chickens must first apply for a free annual permit, which goes to the governing body for approval.
Beth Linn, Edgerton City Administrator, said Edgerton code does have a provision that says city fowl must not be detrimental to the public welfare. If a neighbor complained about chickens next door, the governing body may consider not renewing a permit the following year, Linn said.
Property owners with less than one acre may be allowed to have chickens in Edgerton as well, Linn said. They would need to petition the planning commission for a variance, however.
“Let’s say they were on three-quarters of an acre, they could go ahead and make the case before the planning commission. They would be heard on a case-by-case basis,” Linn said.
Edgerton isn’t the only area city that allows backyard chickens. Leawood, Lenexa and Roeland Park allow residents to cultivate chickens under certain circumstances.
Gardner council members are tentatively scheduled to discuss possible changes to Gardner’s rules and regulations for backyard chickens during a June work session, Hall said.
Janzen runs a Facebook page dedicated to encouraging backyard chickens in Gardner.
“We’ve done some research on urban chickens and gardens,” she said. “They kind of go hand-in-hand.”
There are no codes or guidelines regulating gardens in Gardner or Edgerton, but there’s no need to plant in a backyard if residents don’t want to cultivate vegetables or plants alone.
Janzen serves on the Gardner Community Garden board.
“The community garden is a great way for someone to come out and see if they like it,” Janzen said.
The community garden is likely Gardner’s largest urban farming effort. The five-acre garden isn’t actually within city limits, however.
“All the way up until the garden gate is in the city,” Janzen said. “As soon as you walk onto the garden, it’s rural. That’s how easy it can be.”