Bailey and her chickens

Brent and Kristin Van Engen stand next to their daughter, Bailey, after she earned a ribbon at the 2019 O'Brien County Fair for her chickens. The Van Engen family is moving to Sheldon and Bailey wrote a letter asking the Sheldon City Council for permission to keep three-laying hens in their backyard.

SHELDON—A previous Sheldon City Council decision on chickens could come home to roost for the governing body.

When it meets at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 15, in the Sheldon Community Services Center, the council will vote on a request from 8-year-old Bailey Van Engen to keep three layer hens in the backyard of her family’s new residence at 1014 Garfield Ave.

At its May 20 meeting, the council honored a similar request from 15-year-old Conner McDonald who wanted to keep 10 hens and four ducks in his backyard and at that gathering, mayor Greg Geels told McDonald he was essentially Sheldon’s beta tester on the issue.

Bailey and her family are relocating from a Sanborn farm to Sheldon and the latter city’s ordinance allows for limited livestock within city limits for areas not zoned for agricultural purposes; however, the owner has to have prior approval by the city council.

According to a letter Bailey sent to the council, she has raised chickens since she was 3 years old, although in the past she has focused on broilers and this year she switched to layers.

“I already took the other 34 broiler chickens to the butcher,” Bailey wrote. “The in-town house has a fenced in backyard and my mom talked to the nearest neighbors and they didn’t care. I plan to put them in a coop, but they might need to live in the dog kennel until my dad can get that built.”

Three out of four neighbors who live closest to Bailey’s future home wrote letters of support for her to keep her chickens, according to the council packet.

Bailey also noted she is in the Clover Kids 4-H Club and her mother, Kristin, said raising and selling chickens has been her “job.” Kristin said Bailey would go around and sell her chickens to the neighbors.

City manager Sam Kooiker cautioned the council at its May 20 meeting that more chicken issues were on the way. In the board packet, Kooiker gives the council four recommendations on how to handle the new chicken request:

  • Allow Bailey’s request.
  • Allow Bailey’s request with a time limit or until ownership of the property changes.
  • Defer action until a future meeting and seek written letters of consent from neighboring property owners.
  • Deny the request.

In other business, the council will consider approving:

  • Appointing Andre Gracia, Galen Habben, Mariah Jansen and Kate Steward to the Sheldon Community Ambulance Team roster.
  • Reappointing Sandy Kamphoff, Melissa (Remme) Bohrer and Stan Ten Kley to the Sheldon Recreational Trails Board.
  • Appointing Sara Eldridge and reappointing Glen Goedken to the Sheldon Cemetery Board.
  • Accepting Jay Schemper’s retirement from the Sheldon Planning and Zoning Commission.
  • A new zoning map.
  • Ray Brinkman’s hire as a street operator. His estimated start date is July 20 and his starting wage is $21.87.
  • A $2.5 million general obligation loan note that will cover street repairs.

The council will discuss making the community services center available for public rentals again and listen to a report from public works director Todd Uhl on potentially updating two lift stations.