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Ferguson Township Domestic Duck Amendment Moves Forward

by and on July 31, 2020 1:30 PM

Ferguson Township is looking to possibly amend its backyard chicken ordinance to include the keeping of ducks.

Back in July 2016 the township passed an ordinance that allowed residents to keep domestic chickens on their property. On July 20, the board of supervisors agreed to hold a public hearing to amend that ordinance to include ducks, which will occur on Aug. 17.

The current chicken ordinance allows for the keeping of up to six hens (no roosters are allowed), but the board decided to cap the potential number of ducks at four.

The change comes after a request from a resident of Pine Grove Mills to allow the domestic keeping of ducks in residential zoning districts back in November. Township staff did research on the matter and drafted an ordinance amendment to include ducks to the chicken ordinance. The township planning commission reviewed the draft amendment at its July 13 regular meeting and had concerns of the amendment due to its potential to spread viral infections such as avian influenza (H5N1). But the board determined that ducks imposed no greater risk than chickens.

“I did some research after the planning commission meeting and it looks like there has not been any instances of avian flu transmission from bird to person in the United States as far as I can tell,” said board member Laura Dininni. “I think the more appropriate concern is salmonella, which is pretty regularly transmitted from birds to people, but again it is the same with the chicken ordinance.”

She said she does not consider salmonella as a reason to not include ducks in the chicken ordinance, and suggested informative literature be given to people who purchase a permit from the township.

The lower limit of ducks was included as a precaution as ducks typically need more space and water, said Dinnini, “so maybe it is a good idea to limit it.”

As opposed to chickens, males and females would be allowed, but only non-flying species, such as Pekins and Khaki Campbells, would be permitted. The ordinance states ducks must be provided with a clean water source large enough for the duck to fit its entire body in, and be deep enough to submerse its head.

Structured housing for chickens and ducks must be placed no closer than 10 feet from the side or near property lines. The minimum coop size is required to be three square feet per hen, with a maximum structure size of 144 square feet. Chickens must be confined and are not permitted to run at large on the property. The ordinance also includes regulations for sanitary requirements.

To have a chicken coop on properties, residents would be required to pay a one-time zoning permit fee for the accessory structure.

This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.

Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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