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Chickens and emus and sheep, oh my!

Gary Hern
A flock of backyard chickens in unicorporated St. Louis County. A St. Louis alderman wants to loosen restrictions on urban farming in the city.

An alderman from Dogtown wants to make urban farming a little easier.

Alderman Scott Ogilvie, D-24th Ward, introduced a bill on Friday loosening the restrictions on the number of backyard chickens and allowing city residents with larger lots to keep goats, sheep, ostriches and emus.

"This is probably the first bill in a series that looks at urban agriculture in St. Louis," Ogilvie said. "My hope is that over the course of the next year or so, we update a variety of rules that pertain to people growing food and selling food that they grow in the city."

Currently, city residents living on any-sized lot are limited to four chickens without a permit. Ogilvie's bill boosts that number to eight, though roosters would still be banned. It also allows property owners with bigger lots to raise up to 20 chickens.

Those with at least a 20,000-square-foot lot could own goats, sheep and larger birds. Male goats would have to be neutered.

"Do I think we're going to have a booming ostrich industry in St. Louis?" Ogilvie asked. "No. But if we're looking at allowing people to keep more types of animals, you might as well include some stuff that people may be interested in."


Seth Jansen, a co-owner of the Easy Chicken, said demand for his product doubled in the first two years and has grown this year as well. He said confusion over the city law may be keeping growth low; it can be read to count chickens as domesticated animals. That means if you already have two dogs, you can't have more than two chicken.

"It's hard to find people who like animals who don't have a dog or a cat," he said. "That can serve as a deterrent" to owning chickens. He added that even the smell of dogs will keep many predators away from chickens.

Some city residents were thrilled with the prospect of looser restrictions on backyard livestock.

But others felt non-domesticated animals should be left to less urban territory

(Walker is the former health director for the city of St. Louis.)

"We're not really talking about large-scale agriculture," Ogilvie said. "There is a recognition that we are in an urban environment where people are relatively close together. It's probably important to remember that it used to be pretty common for people to have horses and chicken and goats and all this stuff, even when we have a higher population than we have now."

And a co-worker was reminded of a vintage campaign promise.

Follow Rachel on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.