How I Legalized Chickens in My Town (Westchester, NY, USA)

By AmazingRachel · Dec 4, 2017 · ·
  1. AmazingRachel
    *Please refrain from getting political in the comments*

    I'm 17 years old and I live in New Castle, New York in the now well-known hamlet of Chappaqua. My family has lived here for about 20 years, my parents moving here from New York City before I was born. We live on a 1 and 1/3 acre property. I got involved in 4-H about 3 years ago and since then I have become president of a local 4-H club called "Hooves, Beaks, and Bills". I hatched 16 chicks on Easter of this year (2017) and so there was a 50/50 chance of my brood being females.

    Facebook page on the hatching and brooding:

    I was lucky enough to get rid of 4 out of the 6 cockerels within two months. However, even though we kept our chickens in the garage at night/early morning due to the coop not being finished, a neighbor filed three anonymous complaints against my family for having chickens. And so for three months I attended and spoke at Town Board Public Hearings on amending the Town Ordinance on poultry/agriculture that was put in place in the early 1980s:
    “Raising of garden crops, vineyard crops, fruits and plants incident to the residential use of the land; on lots of at least 10 acres, the keeping and raising of poultry, livestock or fur-bearing animals, provided that no such use shall be located within 250 feet of any lot line.”
    Even though the Town Board was pretty much on my side on this issue, the Town's Environmental Review Committee, Conservation Board, Planning Board were not. The Town's Environmental Review Committee and Conservation Board recommended that the law be revised to allow a maximum of 4 chickens on a minimum of 2 acres, citing possible pollution concerns, possible coyote attraction, and a possible health crisis due to possible salmonella outbreak. The Planning Board recommended that the Ordinance not be revised at all due to possible coyote attraction, neighborhood dog attraction, smell concerns, and also the fact that it this is a "bedroom community".
    These are some of the resources I used:
    Chickens for Montgomery (2009)
    7 False Myths About Urban Chickens
    Residential Urban Chicken Keeping: An Examination of 25 Cities
    CDC: Keeping Backyard Poultry
    Backyard Chickens: Small Scale Chicken Raising (Washington County Cornell Cooperative Extension)
    Poultry Resources (Chemung County Cornell Cooperative Extension)
    Developing Regulations for Keeping Urban Chickens (scroll down and look on the left side)
    The Link Between Japanese Barberry and Lyme Disease (A bit of an oddball in the mix but I noticed my chickens especially loved hanging out under the Japanese Barberry bush on our property and so they might also go after the ticks while they're there).
    Legislating/Enforcing Chicken Keeping Laws from a Town's Perspective

    *Notes about resources and some general tips*
    -I highly recommend contacting your local Cooperative Extension for resources and/or advice. They will be glad to help with anything from gardening advice to ruminant pasture management, and, yes, chicken legalization.
    -If you've done the research, look into giving a summary presentation at your local library about what you have learned. This may rally local support for legalizing chickens in your community.
    -Always try and find multiple sources to validate a point.
    -Learn zoning lingo such as "setbacks" and "zones".
    -Keep in mind how much the town has to work to make a new chicken law work (ex. course of action for complaints).
    -Keep in mind your fellow neighbors who don't have chickens and/or may not want them.
    -Be willing to compromise! I was very stubborn with this one. I really wanted to keep my rooster and even though the coop is sound insulated, people just don't want to hear a rooster crow.
    -Be aware that lawmaking is a time-consuming and bureaucratic process (but democratic!) and so it may take awhile. (Legalizing chickens in my town has been in the works for the past 4 years).
    -Set up a Facebook group for your cause.
    -Be ready to answer (nicely and politely) any question about chickens you are asked, even if it was said in a rude manner. Also, see what the people in the town government have to say or have questions about in terms of chicken keeping and answer their questions/rebut but always establish what they said before you give your input.
    -In reference to the point above, this is what I had to rebut against:
    Town of New Castle Planning Board Meeting 9/19/17, (chicken hearing starts at 1:47:28) (most towns should have videos of Town Board meetings available to the public. These can also be seen on public access TV channels).
    Conservation Board and Environmental Review Board Recommendation pg 1 pg 2 below
    21368955_10214246828943968_1314127904736383494_o.jpg 21366857_10214246830103997_7629634051898391829_o.jpg -If all else fails, contact your local news station!

    Anyways, my persistence worked! The new chicken keeping law was passed and will be enacted January 1st, 2018. In the new law, one needs to get a chicken-owning permit/license and pay a small fee (similar to a dog license). On a minimum of 1 acre, a maximum of 6 chickens can be owned. On 2 acres or larger, there can be a maximum of 10. Coop/run setbacks are 80 feet from the lot line.

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  1. Altfrizzle
    Definitely reach out when you’re ready for some silkies! I’m only about 20-30 minute drive.

    I’m also going to be setting Frizzled Sizzle eggs on Saturday! I’m a bit of a hatching fiend.

    I have some silkie chicks growing out in the coop, too. Splash, blue, white, a porcelain... lol
  2. path.otto
    I was the Neighborhood Specialist for the community in northern Iowa until my recent retirement. I supervised Animal Control among other things and one of the things I did was to provide the information that our city council needed to approve beekeeping on city lots. We already allowed up to 25 chickens, ducks, rabbits or other poultry (including roosters). Congratulations, I see a great community advocate in the making!
      Altfrizzle likes this.
  3. Altfrizzle
    Excellent! Congrats!

    I'm quite close to you, in Ridgefield CT right across the line from South Salem. LMK if you're actually looking for chicks at some point. I've got a flock of silkies and sizzles with one half silkie-half serama whose eggs are going into the incubator in a day or two.
    1. AmazingRachel
      Omg. Our club is looking to get silkies. Unfortunately, this year we couldn't find any fertilized silkie eggs to hatch and we got chicks who all turned out to be roosters! I think we would be interested in doing business in the spring!
      Altfrizzle likes this.

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