It looks like Ashley Hicks is going to have to get rid of her pet chickens after all.
Hicks, a former Roseburg city councilor, took a novel approach in her efforts to keep the four birds after city officials revoked a permit she had been granted to have them: Hicks claimed she needed the chickens as emotional support animals to help her cope with some mental health issues she was dealing with.
In her formal appeal to the city to keep her farm animal permit, Hicks included a note from her doctor verifying her need for the chickens. City Manager Nikki Messenger denied Hicks’ appeal.
“The Roseburg Municipal Code defines staff’s authority in this matter,” Messenger wrote in a letter stating her decision. “There is no evidence to suggest the police chief made an error in his determination to revoke the permit. As such, I uphold the police chief’s decision and the permit revocation. Ms. Hicks has 10 days from the date of this decision to either remove the livestock from her property or petition the City Council to review the decision.”
The letter was dated April 26, which means Hicks has until Thursday to remove the chickens or appeal to the City Council. Hicks declined to comment on the denial of her appeal or what she plans to do next.
Hicks lives on Southeast Flint Street, a few blocks west of downtown Roseburg. Her home backs up to the South Umpqua River. Last summer, Hicks got a permit for her chickens and ducks. She said she went door-to-door to get the 23 signatures of neighbors that were needed and paid the $50 permit fee.
However, Hicks said that in September a dog owned by her neighbor, Susie Osborn, attacked one of her hens. Later another dog owned by Osborn attacked and killed one of Hicks’ ducks. All told, Hicks said Osborn’s dogs have killed two of her ducks and injured two of her laying chickens.
Hicks said it is those incidents that prompted Osborn to take action to have Hicks’ chickens removed. Osborn herself served a total of 10 years on the City Council, from January 1991 to December 1998, then again from January 2007 to December 2008.
Osborn was one of two adjacent property owners who asked that Hicks’ permit for the chickens be revoked. The other was a woman named Mary Blevens, who owns two adjacent properties that she rents out to several tenants. Together their two signatures constituted three of the five adjacent property owners, or 60% total — more than the 50% needed, under city code, to have Hicks’ permit revoked.
Hicks said Blevens is elderly and didn’t understand the proceedings, a fact that Messenger and Roseburg Police Chief Gary Klopfenstein dispute. Messenger said Klopfenstein reached out to Blevens initially to see how she felt about the chickens, and then as a courtesy to Blevens went to her residence personally to pick up her letter objecting to them.
At the bottom of the letter, Blevens scrawled “I don’t want chickens.”
The hearing on Hicks’ appeal of her permit revocation was held via Zoom on April 6. During the hearing, Hicks listed a dozen reasons that she should be allowed to keep the chickens, including:
- Osborn took action against Hicks in retaliation for incidents involving her dog.
- Hicks had followed every expectation of the ordinance, and there were no complaints about her chickens.
- The ordinance is unfair because it took 23 signatures and $50 to get the permit but only two signatures to revoke it.
- The fact she lost her chickens due to someone else’s negligence with their dogs.
This is not the first time Hicks has butted heads with Messenger and other city officials. Her four-year tenure on the City Council was rife with controversy before she was defeated in her bid for re-election in November.
In February 2020, Hicks was sanctioned by the City Council for comments she made on social media in support of a homeless camp near the airport. Later that year, Hicks filed a formal complaint against Messenger, accusing her of violating the city charter by not living within city limits. The City Council dismissed Hicks’ complaint, calling it unfounded.
In a brief comment Tuesday, Hicks said she continues to have problems with her neighbor’s dogs, that she believes were in her yard again last week, going after her chickens. Hicks said when she got home three hens were gone and the one remaining bird was limping. A few hours later the others returned, except for one. A few days later Hicks said she found the bird floating in the water.
“I am down to three chickens as of today,” she said. “Two of the three are injured.”