MERRILLVILLE — It appears a resident’s plan to raise chickens in his backyard has ruffled a few feathers.
Michael Shannon is requesting a special exception that would allow him to continue to have chickens on his residential property on 65th Avenue.
As his request went before the Board of Zoning Appeals recently, it received opposition from several neighbors and Town Councilman Don Spann.
The BZA gave the special exception an unfavorable recommendation as it heads to the Town Council for a final decision. The council could act on the matter in coming weeks.
Shannon told the board he has been raising chickens for about two years, and he currently has five chickens on his property. He said he is pursuing a greener lifestyle, and he eats the eggs produced by the animals.
Shannon said his children also recently became involved in 4-H, which is another reason he is seeking the special exception.
Town Attorney Joseph Svetanoff said town code considers chickens wild animals and a public nuisance, which is why they are prohibited in residential areas.
Shannon received a citation from Merrillville Animal Control for having the animals on his property. The citation is being handled through Town Court, but the case has been continued while Shannon is seeking the special exception.
Neighbors said having the chickens on the property has attracted coyotes and other dangerous animals to the neighborhood.
The board also received complaints about the birds making noise and interrupting residents’ sleep.
Shannon said the wild animals were around his neighborhood before he started raising chickens. He also indicated he hasn’t lost a bird to a coyote or other animals.
Before voting on Shannon’s request, some board members indicated they understand Shannon’s reasoning for raising chickens, but they couldn’t support the special exception.
In addition to potential health and safety issues, board members expressed concerns that approving the matter could set a precedent that could produce more requests for backyard chickens.
If the council denies the special exception request, Shannon would be required to relocate the birds that are on his property.