Back and forth about chickens continue as a fixture at Valparaiso Commission Meetings in 2023.

A group calling itself the Valparaiso Coop has taken roughly 45 minutes during the public comment section of the city commission monthly meetings to lobby the commissioners for a change in the city’s ordinances that ban chickens from city limits. 

The difference this month: two commissioners voiced support for a non-binding referendum that would allow city residents to vote on whether or not they would like to change the current ordinance and allow for hens in yards. 

Commissioners Kay Hamilton and Tom Browning noted their support to put the issue in front of voters. 

“I think my opinion is that my opinion, whether I want chickens, or whether I don’t want chickens, is not important, said Commissioner Hamilton, “and even though sometimes they’re not as vocal, I’ve been hammered with people that are very much against [allowing chickens].” Hamilton added, “I would encourage the commission to choose to put in a referendum because then that’s the only fair way, and everybody gets to look at it. And that’s I think it would just settle on this.”

Commissioner Tom Browning agreed – adding that the number of people who’ve contacted him and asked him to keep the ordinance in place far outweighs the number of people in favor of allowing chickens in city limits. “For me to say there is a balance right now [of pro and anti-chicken sentiment] – there is no balance right now. I think a vote would be a landslide [against chickens]. If it wasn’t, I would be shocked.”

Currently, the petition to allow chickens in city limits has 128 signatures – about 4% of eligible voters in the city limits – but about 18% of the number of people who turned out in the last city elections to elect Mayor Brent Smith in 2022.  

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Next Steps for a Referendum

The commissioners have a couple of options in front of them:


  • The commissioners can continue to say no to bringing up an ordinance for a vote – as they are doing currently. 
  • The commissioners can acquiesce to the chicken lobby – and pass an ordinance that allows chickens in city limits
  • The commissioners can put a binding referendum on the ballot next March – which would put the question of chickens in the city limits up for a vote. Should the measure get more than a 50% affirmative vote – it would be added to the charter. Adding something to a city’s charter is a lot like adding an amendment to the constitution. Once it’s in there – it’s very hard to remove. 
  • The commissioners can place a non-binding referendum on the ballot regarding chickens. This referendum would not have the force of law – but could be taken under advisement by the commissioners. 100% of voters could vote in favor of allowing chickens – but the commission could ignore it without consequence.
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