Not too long ago, keeping chickens in Eugene was as rare as hen’s teeth. But nowadays chickens have become almost as ubiquitous as the Oregon Ducks.
Bill Bezuk, owner of The Eugene Backyard Farmer, organizes an annual Tour de Coop, where backyard farmers can show off their adorable flocks to an appreciative parade of self-guided visitors. As Bezuk says, this is “Coop Town, USA.”
And in the future, we may see plenty of four-footed farm animals within the city limits, too.
The City of Eugene’s Land Use Department has recently unveiled regulations around the practice of urban farming, aimed at the care and protection of farm animals, as well as neighborly tolerance and acceptance. Here are some helpful tips:
The first step toward your urban farm is to ensure that your property is properly zoned for livestock. (You can check here: eugene-or.gov/index.aspx?NID=2389.) If it is, and you’re a renter, ask your landlord’s permission before moving forward.
Measure the space you have in mind for your new animals. If your property is less than 20,000 square feet in area, you may keep up to two clutches of critters from the following list: Up to six chickens and/or domestic fowl over 6 months of age and six more under 6 months of age (no roosters, geese, peacocks, or turkeys); up to six rabbits over 6 months of age and six under 6 months; if it’s goats you’re considering, the city allows up to three of the miniature variety, as long as males are neutered; and as for pigs, each home is allowed one mini pig, up to 150 pounds.
So, you could have chickens and goats, or a pig and some rabbits, or some other approved combination. But if you want the whole barnyard, you’ll have to move someplace more rural.
How does the urban farmer look after this new menagerie?
“Goats, as with all animals, require adequate shelter, food and water, and a clean environment, free of excess manure,” says Melissa Fery, senior instructor with Oregon State University’s Small Farms Extension Service. “Goats need good fencing, as they are prone to sneaking out of fenced areas. They do not tolerate rain well, so they need some sort of shelter. And they’ll eat many plants that people consider part of their landscape.”
Rabbits, too, says Fery, should be provided with housing that protects them from rain and direct sun. “Many people will have them in an outdoor area which is covered with a roof, to allow for plenty of ventilation,” she says.
According to the city, shelters for all animals must be located at least 10 feet from all property lines, including any covered animal runs. A building permit is not required for an enclosure 200 square feet or less and no more than 10 feet high. Fencing is required and must be designed and constructed to confine all animals on the site.
Dreaming of your own little Wilbur?
“Pigs naturally root in the ground, digging up worms and plant materials to eat,” Fery says. “They can remove vegetation in small areas quickly, including grass. Some people have even used pigs for tree stump removal! In Western Oregon, these areas end up very muddy and mucky, which may not be what people intend.”
The city stresses that animal manure is not allowed to accumulate. Compost piles that contain manure and bedding must be located at least 5 feet from all property lines and be confined within a container or bin enclosed on all sides.
Before buying any animal, potential owners should do their homework so they know what questions to ask, Fery cautions, “like if they’ve been vaccinated for certain diseases that pertain to the species of livestock, if male animals have been castrated, what types of feed they are currently on.”
Most animals require vaccines for certain disease prevention.
“Owners often choose to learn basic animal husbandry skills to reduce costs, but if the animal is sick, they need to seek help from a veterinarian that has experience with livestock species,” Fery says.
But there are rewards as well as responsibilities. Speaking to Kimmy Gustafson, who a brought dwarf Nubian goat, Gardenia, home at just 4-days-old, it’s easy to hear the love in her voice.
“In a month, we’ll get her sister. They’re social creatures,” Gustafson says. “They get lonely.”
Find more information about urban homesteading by visiting smallfarms.oregonstate.edu, eugenebackyardfarmer.com, and the City of Eugene’s website on urban animal keeping: eugene-or.gov/index.aspx?NID=2389.