Chicken Outlaws: Changing Ordinances
Today’s post is spurred on by the The Chicken Chick and her battle to keep her chickens. Like many of us, Kathy Shea Mormino is walking the tight line of chicken-keeping legalities. Where many of us would have gotten rid of our chickens when the town said they had to go, Kathy is fighting back. I guess that’s what the town of Suffield, Connecticut gets when they take on a lawyer.
Kathy is making headlines in her battle. She has made the front page of her local newspaper and has been interviewed by reporters. You can see her latest interview by Channel 3 News which describes both the town’s position as well as her own.
Chicken Keeping Laws
With people’s desire to eat local and know where their food is coming from, farms are popping up all over. From farmlands to cities, people are wanting to keep chickens. Although you would think that the legal battle would only affect people living in apartments, it doesn’t. It affects people who have acreage and can’t even see their neighbors.
Non-traditional farmers are doing their best to fight local ordinances regarding chicken keeping. BackyardChickens.com has an entire forum about whether chickens are legal in your area and if not, how to fight it. Many homesteaders (myself included) have a don’t ask, don’t tell policy.
While I know I can legally house chickens on my property, I have not verified with the town as to the quantity and housing restrictions for them. Since several of the local police have stopped by to purchase eggs or comment on how cute my coop is, I figure I’m a-okay in their books. Another assurance that I have is that I always keep on good terms with my neighbors.
This is especially true when I decided I wanted to add roosters to my flock. A clean and attractive coop and yard had kept neighbors from complaining, but the all-day crow sessions could have put even the most adoring neighbors on edge. The neighbors can’t be blamed for being annoyed. I went door-to-door and talked with my neighbors, explaining my desire to keep roosters, what my steps would be if they were too noisy (first being kept locked in the coop at night and second being kept in a night box). My neighbors were encouraged to come to me if they had any issues with the roosters or the chickens in general.
A Chicken to Cat Comparison
This may be an odd comparison to make, but for the bad-wrap that backyard chickens get, I think this comparison knocks down a few of the “cons” many towns have.
I have an indoor/outdoor cat. I could live anywhere in the country and be allowed to keep my cat. In fact, I could have three or four more just like her. My cat hunts. She kills the birds my neighbor attracts with her bird feeders. I am unable to keep her on my property and still allow her to be an outdoor cat. My cat affects my neighbors’ way of life. Thankfully, my neighbors like the cat and I (in fact the lady across the street often brings be baked goodies).
I would love to completely free-range my chickens, but my chickens cross the road and eat the neighbor’s bird seed from her feeders. The neighbor doesn’t really care for this. I have modified my flock and yard to accommodate my neighbor. I clip my chickens’ wings and I fenced off the back half of our property. I’m able to make chicken-keeping work in a way I couldn’t with my cat. Yet my cat can live anywhere and my chickens cannot.
A Chicken to Dog Comparison
I have a dog. She isn’t like most dogs. Yes, she barks when someone walks by our home. For awhile she barked whenever the new neighbors where outside. She doesn’t bark for hours. She doesn’t bark at night. In general, she is a pretty quiet dog. She does not affect the lives of the people who live near me. The dog down the street is not the same. That dog barks at every car or person that goes by. She is kept outdoors all day long into the late hours of the night. She howls incessantly. The dog down the street would be welcome almost anywhere in the country.
My chickens sing when they lay eggs. Some like to sing their egg song for quite a while. They are still quieter than your average dog. They make no noise at night since they sleep in a nearly catatonic state (except the rooster, but his noise issues have been addressed). Where this obnoxiously loud dog can live just about anywhere, my hens cannot. I find this odd.
I foresee Kathy Mormino’s battle to be just the start of a very vocal movement. The laws don’t make sense. People are starting to care about their food sources again. It’s the perfect storm for these legal battles.
For more information about changing your local laws, here are some great resources:
To support Kathy, the Chicken Chick, or to get more information about her legal battle, follow her site The Chicken Chick.