Before either chicken or egg, an ordinance allowing both must come first.
Helper now has such an ordinance. It permits chickens on owner-occupied property in residential areas, as long as ranchers follow the rules.
The idea approved by the city council Thursday was hatched by the city's planning and zoning commission. Planners worked with citizens to come up with something workable.
The regulations are stringent, P&Z member Jean Boyack told the mayor and council.
In reading the new law, it appears she was not kidding.
For starters, all chickens in city limits must be Amazons. No males are allowed.
The populations of those ranches are also strictly regulated according to the size of the property. For a spread of 2,500 to 5,000 square feet, (.06 to .11 acre) the maximum allowable number of hens is three. The biggest ranches, 20,000 square feet or larger, can have up to 20 chickens.
Chickens have to be confined in a predator-proof enclosure by day and at night they must go into lockdown in a coop.
Neither the enclosure nor the coop can be visible from the street, and the chicken-occupied areas have to be 10 feet or more from any neighbor's inhabited buildings.
Owners must treat the hens with respect. Enclosures and coops have to allow at least three square feet of space for each chicken, and all of them need to be given adequate food and water.
Everything has to be kept clean and quiet, and hens may not trespass on adjacent properties.
Chicken ranchers must also buy annual permits from the city.
Finally, unlike the hens it regulates, the law has teeth. Councilman Robert Bradley said that the first offence will get a citation from police, and the second one means you're out.