AGAWAM — City councilors voiced support for an ordinance permitting small numbers of hens on residential properties, following a Dec. 4 public hearing.

Councilor Anthony Russo previously said the ordinance originated with an Agawam family that requested a special permit to have chickens on its property. He and Councilor Cecilia Calabrese realized no town ordinance existed to allow poultry on non-agricultural properties. Both councilors sponsored the ordinance.

The ordinance before the City Council contains two changes from the draft received from the Planning Board, which conducted its own public hearing on Nov. 30. The latest version removes the annual $100 fee to the Agawam Health Department. The fee received criticism at both public hearings. Resident Earl Dandy said it was an example of the “overwhelming” regulations in the ordinance. Russo said he agreed to take it out after talks with residents.

“We did feel that that was a little bit too much and unfair, so I’m glad we agreed to take that out,” he said.

It also removes a requirement for residents to provide a site plan to the Health Department in order to receive a permit.

“Site plan,” Council President Christopher Johnson said, has a specific meaning to the town that planners did not want to apply here. Residents will still need a permit, but from the Board of Appeals. They must provide a plan showing the structures they intend to set up and any surface or drinking water in the vicinity.

Councilor Robert Rossi was concerned people who already own chickens wouldn’t submit a site plan. After clarifying the change, Johnson said the Board of Appeals can make restrictions depending on the location, topography, and the size of the lot. He also said this part of the ordinance was inspired by West Springfield’s ordinance.

Calabrese said she was concerned that, on agriculturally zoned parcels, the permit system would restrict an activity currently considered a matter of right. Johnson said this ordinance only applies to single-family residential parcels less than 5 acres. Regulations for farms begin at 5 acres or more.

Other criticism came from resident Donna Jacobs, who noted that chickens can usually only be bought six at a time. The ordinance allows a maximum of six, 12 or 18 chickens to be kept at a time, depending on the size of the lot.

“If I have six chickens and one dies, what can I do?” she asked. “Can I comfortably go purchase another six to replace the one that passed away or do I have to wait until I get down to no chickens?”

Nonetheless, Jacobs believed the ordinance would help young people burdened by grocery and housing prices.

“I would love also to have somebody with chickens near me, because I grow certain things and I could always swap if things get bad,” she said.

Resident Christina Ehle said when she came home from the Planning Board meeting, her six-year old had asked her if they would be allowed to keep their chickens. She said her children were invested in them as pets and she uses them to teach food security.

“When you vote tonight, please consider how detrimental this would be for our family and many other families if chickens continue to be prohibited in Agawam,” she said.

Resident Susan Grossman said her close friend has had chickens for decades. She said they were more well-behaved and quieter than her dog. Resident Paul Broz said chickens are clean. Their feces can be used for composting. He also said neighboring towns like Longmeadow have approved similar ordinances.

Russo said he believed the ordinance was fair, with safeguards for hen-keepers and neighbors.

“I think this is a very fair compromise to all residents,” he said.

Five residents spoke in favor of the ordinance. No residents appeared in opposition. The council voted 10-0 in favor on Dec. 4. There will be a second and final vote at the council’s Dec. 18 meeting.