I Want Backyard Chickens. Bad.


Last night was awesome, guys.

For the second time, I attended a city council meeting to speak about removing chickens from the list of restricted agricultural animals in our town. {Essentially, I want really, really want to keep a few laying hens in my backyard and not get into trouble.}
And, for the second time, I was felt welcomed and appreciated by my city council members. It's a great feeling that our city leaders are willing to carefully listen to me and my goal to keep chickens in city limits. 
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My strategy is to charm the council members with my beauty, wit, and intelligence regularly attend city council meetings with other like-minded community members and speak about the various components to keeping backyard chickens. We want to make sure our city council gets a nice, broad look at how backyard hens will improve our community, and all of the tenants involved in modifying the agricultural animal ordinance, before they vote on the issue.

As you can imagine, this could take a few months. At every city council meeting, we'll talk about something different, and hopefully reach an good agreement (i.e. - a revised ordinance!) by spring.

Hopefully.

Well, last night I had intentions to briefly speak about the benefits of backyard chickens in our community. I wrote a letter to the council earlier this week where I listed some of the benefits of keeping chickens -
  • Chickens are a healthier, local food option
  • They create virtually no waste, because their bedding and droppings are great garden compost. And chickens are great composters themselves - they eat kitchen scraps and spent garden plants, not to mention scratch around in the grass for insects.
  • Urban chickens are quiet, more so than the average barking dog.
  • Properly maintained chicken coops do not smell, and no evidence has been cited that urban chickens reduce property values.
  • Chickens promote self-sustainability and local economies.
  • Kids learn affection and responsibility (under a watchful parent) by caring for chickens.
  • Municipalities that adopt chicken ordinances qualify for sustainability grants for the community, so everybody wins!
  • Existing animal control ordinances protect community members from concerns about potentially negligent chicken owners.
My intention was to go into a bit more detail on the benefits of keeping chickens, and read a funny, insightful passage from Joel Salatin's "Folks, This Ain't Normal". When a council member motioned to receive and file my letter, and when I hoped to take the podium to deliver a few words, I quickly found out that many council members are already in support of keeping backyard chickens and ducks within city limits.

Furthermore, I discovered that earlier in 2013 the city had actually drafted an ordinance, which is exactly what I was going to propose in the coming months. The city council just tabled the discussion because there wasn't a lot of interest from people for or against an ordinance, and it just wasn't an issue they felt comfortable voting on with such a lack of interest among the community.

Are you as surprised as I was? This means that the city council has already done the heavy lifting for an urban chicken ordinance in our town. All they need to do {if I'm understanding this correctly} is discuss and hear opinions on the ordinance three consecutive times at regular council meetings, then vote.

If they vote yes, I'll be gettin' some chickens in the spring!

But, this isn't a done deal, so I've also reached out to each of the city council members and mayor to gather their input. Three council members and the mayor have agreed to meet with me at a local coffee house to discuss their thoughts and concerns. I think that's hopeful, don't you?

Here's where I'm worried:

1. How does one address issues that community members might have about negligent chicken owners? Or people who get a few cute chicks and don't realize the responsibilities of keeping hens? These are viable questions that need to be considered.

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2. On a personal note, are all of my friends and family going to think I'm a weirdo? I'm pretty sure they already do, but in a good way. I don't want to be the brunt of jokes or be ridiculed. It's not everyday that a young person is interested in agriculture, let alone urban agriculture. And while I grew up on a farm and was fully immersed in the agricultural experience, I bolted right after graduating. Will I be cut out for the judgmental questions I might receive?

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3. When I get chickens, what if they get sick, or I have a question that my aunt, dad or grandparents can't answer? What resources are out there where I can seek advice when I'm stuck? I love animals, and want to make sure I'm giving them a good life. What are your go-to chicken resources?

4. I need to build a coop, and it needs to have at least 4 square feet for each hen. If the ordinance passes, up to 6 hens are allowed on a lot. Eeeeek! I don't know what type of coop to build! There are so many plans and resources out there - how do I narrow the choices? And, where do I put it in my backyard? (Here's what it looks like now. We just added three more raised beds.) A shady spot? In the sun? Should it be mobile?

Any advice for me? Words of encouragement? Am I on the right track? Help a sister out, would ya! 



9 comments:

  1. My uncle built a chicken coop on his acreage a couple years ago. He started raising chickens but then switched to quail (and pigeons, I believe). I can hook you up with him if you need some advice.

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    1. That would be great! Even if he could take a few photos and email them to me this spring. I might also visit Aunt Tess and see what expertise she can throw my way.

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  2. My husband sits on the council in our city in Indiana....I'm not sure if it would be of interest to you, but I believe by Robert's Rule of Order the council can vote to Suspend the Rules which means that they would vote once and then turn around and vote again (as the final vote) without having to hear the issue three times. Not sure that you need this info but just thought that I would share in case it might prove helpful to you.

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    1. That actually IS very helpful, just for the sake of time. And, I guess offers less of an opportunity for potential 'haters' to get involved, right?

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  3. Megan is correct in regards to waiving the requirement to have three separate hearings on the proposed ordinance. (I audit local cities) I believe it takes the approval of at least a majority of all council seats to waive the requirement. Generally isn't a problem though if the council is all supportive of an ordinance.

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    1. So, they have to agree/vote to have fewer hearings? I can't just recommend it? I think all but one council members are supportive. And, I believe the one who isn't supportive will be replaced after the first of the year. Not sure though.

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  4. Long live the backyard chickens! Keep up the good fight. And if you lose, we'll keep 'em here. We have 5 acres and we ARE getting chickens in the spring... ;-)

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  5. So awesome!! Can't wait to find out more and see what happens this spring! :)

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