SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council had a frank talk about the birds and the bees Monday when officials weighed the pros and cons of allowing urban beekeeping and chicken coups.
As part of encouraging the city to become “greener” and other community benefits, Council President Jake Day advocated for establishing ordinances that would allow urban bee and chicken keeping. Bee keeping, for example, is a simple way to improve fauna around the city, according to Day.
“There are human health benefits as well. But the primary purpose is to enable and allow and support a healthy community gardening and street tree, flower and tree, systems throughout Salisbury,” he said.
A number of cities across the country, including some much larger than Salisbury, already have urban bee keeping regulations on the books. The idea of encouraging the buzzing bugs in Salisbury was a bit of a sting for some on the council.
“People are allergic to bees,” pointed out Councilwoman Shanie Shields.
She wondered exactly how the insects would be controlled. The bees kept by residents are generally harmless by Day’s estimation and aren’t known to wander far from their hives.
“They behave a lot like cats and dogs. They know where home is and they don’t go far from home,” he said.
Healthy and controlled bee colonies also serve as a deterrent to an influx of more aggressive, wild bees, Day added.
Shields still appeared skeptical and had other issues with another proposal backed by Day that would bring a little more countryside into the city.
“I can tell you right now I’m not supporting chickens. I’ve seen chickens everywhere else. The smell is terrible,” said Shields.
As with bees, Day argued that urban and suburban poultry keeping has a completely undeserved bad rap.
“There are a ton of facts out there. The myths are easy to come up with but the facts are in direct contradiction to what most myths are,” he said.
Backyard chickens can provide eggs and have often been considered good marks for sustainability. The mess and odor they produce is dramatically exaggerated, said Day.
“It would take 10 laying hens to generate half of the waste of a 40-pound dog,” he said.
Councilwoman Laura Mitchell admitted some concern that poultry might attract predators like foxes and increase rabies risks. Day argued that this was also a myth and that chickens were even less likely to be beacons for wild animals than common household pets.
No action was taken on either the birds or the bees, but city staff was instructed to do research into how other municipalities have handled the issue and report back to the council.