La Crosse County considers backyard chicken proposal

Ordinance would allow raising chickens in towns

La Crosse County considers backyard chicken proposal

LA CROSSE COUNTY, Wis. (WKBT) - A La Crosse County proposal would change a zoning ordinance to allow more people in county towns to raise chickens in their backyards.    

Currently, in 10 of the 12 unincorporated towns under countywide zoning, including the towns of Onalaska, Shelby and Medary, those living in platted subdivisions, or areas with a concentration of houses, aren't allowed to raise chickens.

But backyard chicken supporters, including Kristi Strelow, are trying to change that.

"This is not something I ever expected to be interested in,” she said.

Calling the Strelow family chicken supporters might be an understatement.

"They aren't just a farm animal, they're like family,” Kristi's son, 10-year-old Marshall Strelow, said. “You can train them.”

Enthusiasts may be a more appropriate term.

"Chickens have surprisingly unique personalities,” Kristi said.

Living in in rural La Crosse County, Kristi thinks owning chickens is the next logical step.

"The beautiful thing about owning backyard chickens is you know they're happy and they're adequately fed,” she said. “Eggs from happy chickens taste better."

"You give them food, then they give you food in return,” Marshall said.

Kristi believes her four sons could learn a thing or two from raising chickens.

“Kids can learn so much from raising chickens,” she said. “Learning how to care for other things, hard work.”

Kristi believes her children can also learn from helping make backyard chickens legal for more town residents in the county.

"We've gotten the whole family involved in it,” she said. “The kids are learning from it, learning what it means to change laws."

She and Marshall spoke at a county public hearing about a possible zoning change last week, along with about a dozen others.

"Typically we get zero to two (speakers at hearings),” La Crosse county planner Charlie Handy said. "When we heard the word 'chickens,' we knew there'd be some attention."

Handy said even though allowing for more chicken ownership may ruffle a few feathers, he's happy more people are speaking up.

"It's really heartening for us,” he said. “Apathy is probably the thing we have to deal with more than passion, so it's nice to see that passion."

The new ordinance would allow for five chickens per parcel in platted subdivisions in the 10 La Crosse County towns, but the county can still make changes. The Strelow family would like the proposal to allow for more chickens on larger rural lots.

Handy said the proposal will likely be decided this summer.

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