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‘Chicken Ordinances’ – No Chickening Out

April 13, 2012

Connecting the classroom to the real world is one purpose of this teacher/local office-holder keeping a blog. One ‘real-world’ situation I now face is a citizen proposal for a local ‘chicken ordinance.’

Some local residents want to keep chickens in their yards. One, the guiding spirit of the proposal, wants to teach her children about self-sufficiency and the care of animals. The amount of eggs produced – one per hen per day, three hens, maximum – is secondary to the desire to raise chickens, per se. Advocates are sincere and appear to have done their homework, with their research into this idea predating my arrival in Council last summer.

Several other Michigan cities have such an ordinance, Traverse City and East Lansing among them.  Neither (and I spoke with the latter myself) reports any significant problems, and license issuance runs about 1 for every 1,000 residents.  We are, however, neither a college town nor a retirement/resort community, so our demographics are not necessarily comparable.  (I am seeking information on a town in Georgia that also allows backyard chickens to broaden the pool of comparables.)

Two things are still to be resolved, for me, at least:  Would the proviso that neighbors have to sign off on an applicant’s chicken license be fair, since we don’t require that of potential Rottweiler or pit bull owners, for example, and should this be a ‘sunset’ law that requires renewal after a certain term of years to continue?

A public hearing will take place before a final vote; hearing from all sides and addressing all reasonable concerns are foremost in my mind (as, I imagine, is the case with my fellow citizen-legislators) as we prepare for the meeting, and for the vote.

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