Ohio—Local governments in Ohio would no longer be able to ban residents from raising chickens, goats, rabbits and other animals in their backyards, under legislation re-introduced in the Ohio House.
Under House Bill 124, residential property owners would be allowed to keep small livestock unless neighbors file a complaint about the noise or smell they create, or if they’re found to live in inadequate housing or unsanitary conditions. The bill would allow up to 20 chickens, 20 rabbits, and three goats per acre of land. (Roosters, known for their loud crowing, are specifically not included on the list.)
A number of local governments around Ohio have prohibited raising such animals in residential areas, including West Chester township near Cincinnati, Perrysburg near Toledo, and the Dayton suburb of Beavercreek.
State Rep. Tom Brinkman, the sponsor of HB124, said in an interview that he introduced the measure after hearing from some constituents upset that they couldn’t raise chickens in their yards.
Goats, rabbits, and other small livestock were also included in Brinkman’s bill, he said, because they were mentioned in draft language that the Cincinnati-area Republican borrowed from the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit group that advocates for small farmers.
Proponents of the bill say it would help city-dwellers who live in poorer neighborhoods far from a supermarket (a so-called “food desert”) get access to fresh eggs and goat milk.
Also, Brinkman said, “It’s a freedom thing, a ‘live and let live’ thing.”
Brinkman introduced a similar bill last legislative session, but it remained cooped up in the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee. Brinkman blamed opposition from then-committee chair Brian Hill, some chatter about the risk of spreading bird flu, and session ending before he could rally enough support.
This time around, Brinkman said he’s “flexible” about changing the bill to address any concerns raised by other lawmakers – though he added that he doesn’t want the legislation to only cover chickens.
“I’d hate to throw the goats overboard,” Brinkman said.
The new House Agriculture Committee Chair, Republican Kyle Koehler of Springfield, said in an interview that the committee will hear out the arguments for the bill.
But, Koehler said he has some issues with the legislation, including concerns that it would violate local governments’ home-rule authority.
Koehler, who lives on an 18-acre farm, added that he’s skeptical of the argument that the bill would allow low-income Ohioans to get fresh eggs and milk, given how expensive it is to raise such animals.
“If you’re having trouble finding fresh eggs, wait until you try to find chicken feed, or goat feed, or bedding for all these animals or cages to hold them,” Koehler said.
Koehler said he moved from an urban neighborhood in Springfield to the country 20 years ago specifically so he could raise livestock.
“There’s a reason people live in the city. There’s a reason people live in the country,” he said. There are places in the country for people to do this, and I think that’s an option that they need to look at.”
It’s not the first time Ohio lawmakers have moved to regulate backyard chickens. A 2016 bill, appropriately passed during lame-duck session, prohibits chicken owners from allowing their birds to wander onto a neighbor’s property.