City official are drafting an ordinance that, if it passes city commissioner and the public's muster, would open the door to keeping a handful of hens within the city limits.

"We're hoping by some time in October people can have a couple of chickens in their yard," said assistant city manager Brit Fontenot.

Alison Sweeney and Andy Knaub formed the Community Led Urban Chicken Movement, aiming to make fowl legal in Bozeman after the couple was forced in May to move their chickens out of town.

"I'm really missing my chickens right now," Sweeney said.

As it stands, raising chickens is considered an agricultural use and is banned in most parts of Bozeman, according to a city ordinance that dates back more than 20 years. Technically, an offense could result in a $600 fine.

But as Bozemanites focus increasingly on sustainable living, Sweeney said it makes sense to allow chickens within city limits. In addition to providing eggs, chickens eat pests. And chicken manure is rich in nitrogen and phosphorus, great for compost, she said.

After Sweeney and Knaub were told they had to get rid of their birds, the couple mobilized, printing pro-chicken T-shirts and dubbing Alison's father's rig the CLUC-Truck to advertise the movement.

Alison's dad, Michael Sweeney, said he gets thumbs up, honks and smiles from folks when he drives around town in the CLUC Truck.

"Then you get the woo-woos from people,' Sweeney said. "I haven't had anybody flip me off or call me names."

"It's fun," he said.

Fontenot aims to have a working draft of a chicken ordinance rolled out during the next several weeks, with public meetings on the issue beginning in August, he said.

In the meantime, city officials will evaluate how best to accommodate community members aiming to keep urban fowl and concerns about noise and health, he said. As it stands, the draft ordinance will likely allow between four and six fowl. But questions linger about whether the city will require licensure and what kind of enclosures should be called for, Fontenot said.

"Is it just going to be a coup?" Fontenot asked

Meanwhile, though, some locals have expressed unease to the city about the downfalls of keeping chicken in an urban environment, he said.

"I've heard some concerns as it relates to noise and as it relates to health," Fontenot said.

The Gallatin City-County Health Department has said chickens pose little or no threat to human welfare, Fontenot said. And Alison Sweeney said the CLUC Movement supports keeping fowl in an enclosure when not supervised.

"I don't think chicken should be at large," Sweeney said.

New York City, Seattle, Madison, Wis., and Missoula have all given thumbs up to urban fowl.

Bozeman city officials will meet with the CLUC Movement next Tuesday to continue ironing out details of the draft ordinance. From there, city departments will evaluate the proposal before it goes before city commissioners, likely next month.

"The city is absolutely thrilled that we can work with a community group like the Cluckers," Fontenot said.

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