FALCONER - Sally Miess would like to see Falconer update its zoning code to accommodate for the ever-growing hobby of urban chicken keeping.
On Jan. 11, the code enforcement officer for Falconer arrived at Miess' house asking her if she had any chickens. When she explained to the officer that the chickens she had were pets, she was told it was irrelevant and that she must get rid of the chickens because having chickens isn't allowed in the village code.
"Within 48 hours of the visit, I (rehoused) my chickens and started to look at what the steps were to change the village code," Miess said. "I began compiling a list of myths about chickens for the zoning board, as well as got every resident on the street to sign a petition stating that my keeping chickens was not changing the character of the neighborhood."
While urban chicken keeping may sound strange to some, it is a hobby which is picking up enthusiasm all across the country. According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, there are a host of personal benefits associated with urban agriculture and keeping chickens in one's own backyard.
In line with the popularity of organic farming, backyard urban chicken keeping has gained a following because keepers can guarantee that the chickens' conditions are humane.
According to Poultry Science, commercial egg production has been associated with salmonella and other disease outbreaks in the United States and poor sanitation and crowded hen houses have been blamed. Expansion of the poultry industry, fueled by an increased demand for poultry products, has created a demand for high throughout poultry and egg production. The resulting increased poultry population density and the rearing of different types of incompatible poultry species in close proximity have presented major disease challenges. Studies conducted by Poultry Science have shown that small scale, backyard chicken keeping and egg production reduces these potential disease risks.
However, like the village of Falconer, many municipalities' zoning laws do not allow for the keeping of livestock within city or village limits, regardless of how well kept they are.
"Because the way the code is written, the Planning Board denied (Miess') request to keep chickens in the village," said Mayor David Krieg. "Her next step now would be to try to change the code to allow for (chicken keeping) going forward."
Initially, Miess filed for a zoning variance that would allow her to keep chickens without changing the code, however in order to be granted a variance she would have had to prove that not keeping chickens has caused her a financial hardship, which it has not.
Miess will now attempt to have the village code changed so that urban chicken keeping may be permitted under circumstances that the chickens are well-maintained and kept under humane circumstances.
"When I was keeping chickens, I had a little coop in the backyard which was more than adequate for six chickens," said Miess. "Right next to the coop, there was a safe enclosure where the chickens could roam without having to worry about predators. The chickens were never free range and I made sure that no odors could ever be detected off of my property. The only time the chickens ever really made any noise at all was when one laid an egg they'd sometimes have a short conversation about. However, while I had my chickens, most of my neighbors never even had any idea they were even there."
In attempting to change the zoning code, will submit a request to the village Planning Board, which will then make a recommendation to the village board.