Where farm meets city
n City of St. Helens discusses allowing goats in city limits; chickens, rabbits, ducks already present
Chickens and rabbits are already allowed within the St. Helens city limits. Now some residents are asking, Why not goats, too?
At the St. Helens City Council work session April 3, Councilor Ginny Carlson presented an e-mail shed received asking the council to consider allowing the livestock animal inside city limits.
Keeping farm animals in urban spaces has become more and more popular throughout the Pacific Northwest. One group in Portland has even held coop tours, ferrying people through the city to look at different urban farmers take on the simple chicken coop.
For St. Helens resident Sally Gump, who has kept chickens for the last four years they strut contentedly around her landscaped yard, clucking and warbling at each other its all about the fresh eggs. Shes very much in favor of the city allowing goats, too, although shes not sure shed add one to her own yard.
Its not the first time the goat question has been raised, said Mayor Randy Peterson. During his tenure as mayor, the question has come up a handful of times, but the city has traditionally stuck to its city code which prohibits the keeping of livestock, bees, more than three adult dogs, exotic animals and wildlife within city limits. Roosters, with their tendency to crow loudly early in the morning, are also not allowed.
Hens, ducks and rabbits, in limited numbers, are permitted. If people want more than the allowed three chickens, for instance, they have to request an animal facility license from the city.
But chickens are one thing. Goats are another.
For the most part, most of the lots in town are small lots, Peterson said. So theres really not the room.
Also, with tight budgets across the board for all city departments, theres the question of who would handle goat complaints.
Were probably going to have fewer people to do that, Peterson said. Its just kind of a logistical issue.
Goat on a rope
Goats, with their odd rectangular pupils, their head-butting, leaping, curious, winsome, sometimes-destructive, sometimes-useful ways, draw a mixed response from St. Helens City Administrator John Walsh who calls himself a recovering goat owner. Even thinking back on raising male goats is enough to make him shudder.
Uncastrated male goats, he said, are terrible, terrible animals: They smell nasty and often behave badly. Female goats are different, and he understands the appeal.
Its a growing trend, he said.
Still, echoing Peterson, opening up the city gates to goats might be complicated.
If you have good people who really want them, who are managing them well, it probably wont be a problem, Walsh said. But some people just want a goat on a rope, thinking it will mow their lawn for them.
It probably wont though it might go for everything else, Walsh said.
Nearby Scappoose has what Walsh terms a good neighbor policy when it comes to livestock in city limits. If the animal is not living in squalor, is well maintained and not creating any noise, at-large or smell nuisances, Scappoose residents are free to keep it.
The system seems to work. The Scappoose Police Department says officers respond more often to human garbage, high grass and vehicles complaints than to chicken complaints.
Walsh expects the goat question to move forward in St. Helens, though the council will need to think carefully about wording if they decided to allow goats.
When you start getting prescriptive about the size of the lot, the type of the shelter, what kind of fencing ... someone could have all these factors and it can still be a problem, he said
A simpler life
A fluffy pile of pale yellow, week-old chicks settles down for a morning snooze in boxes at Columbia Electric Feed and Seed in St. Helens.
Its not hard for the average person to get started raising chickens, said owner Doug Ganson. They need feeders, water, lights and a warm place to bed down. Feed might cost anywhere from $20 to $40 a month. Every spring, he orders hundreds of chicks and ducklings and has seen an increased number of people coming in to buy them.
Gump built her own coop. It has multiple levels with a lower caged area for keeping young chicks, when she has them, and then straw-filled nesting areas for the mature, egg-laying birds. On an average day, her birds will lay at least two eggs each.
You dont really make a profit at it, she said about keeping chickens in the city. And they can really scratch up your garden, but theyre great for slugs and bugs.
Theyre also soothing.
If you like having a calmer lifestyle, its relaxing to just sit out here and watch them communicate with each other and interact, she said.
On the topics of chickens, ducks, goats, gardens: I think people are now doing it because its a simpler part of life, she said. Theyre thinking about what theyre eating and how theyre living.Add a comment