[b]ADVICE WANTED[/b]:Open & Upfront or Stealthy & Strategic?

Which approach to lawfully keeping more than 2 chickens?

  • Try to get the code changed for everyone in Freeport?

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Try to get a personal exemption just for MY backyard?

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters


Mother of Chickens
14 Years
Feb 23, 2009
Which of the following tacks shall I take to changing the code?

I live in Freeport, which is within several hierarchies of government: State: New York; County: Nassau; Town: Hempstead; Incorporated Village: Freeport.
It's just about a 45 minute drive east of Manhattan, located on the land mass called Long Island, at the very southern tip of New York State. The Freeport Village Code says:

[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Trustees of the Village of Freeport 5-9-1966 as Ch. 4 of the 1966 Code. Amendments noted where applicable.]

§ 78-9 Poultry or fowl restricted.
[Added 8-28-1967; amended 4-17-1978 by L.L. No. 9-1978]
A. It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, corporation or other entity within the Village limits to keep, harbor or maintain any live poultry or fowl, including but not limited to chickens, ducks and geese, except that not more than two poultry or fowl may be kept as household pets.
B. Notwithstanding the provisions of Subsection A hereof, it shall be unlawful for any person within the Village limits to keep, harbor or maintain any live rooster.

So each household can have two hens. Yesterday I wrote the following letter to the Mayor and the Village Attorney. I haven't mailed it yet, but emailed copies to several friends, inviting them to watch the consequences unfold. One of my friends suggested that I not send the letter, but rather I should approach the situation more stealthily. I invite you all on BYC to tell me what you think of each tactic. I'll hold off on mailing the letter to the Village in the hopes that I get some feedback opinions from my fellow BYC'ers, and then I'll decide whether or not to send the letter.
Here's the letter, followed by the stealth suggestions.
Carolyn XXXXX
XXXXXXX Avenue Freeport, NY 11520

March 8, 2010
XXXXXX, Mayor of Freeport
XXXXXXXX, Village Attorney
46 North Ocean Ave.
Freeport, NY 11520

Dear Mayor XXXXXX,
Dear Mr. XXXXX,

My husband and I have been living in Freeport for the past thirty-five years. It’s a wonderful community and continues to delight us with its diversity, opportunities, and promising future.

I would like one of the Village Codes changed and am writing to you today to ask what the procedure is so that I can properly apply for the change to be made.

I have had the great pleasure of keeping two hens as pets since last July, and would like a few more.

The limit of two female chickens is mandated by the Animals & Fowl section of the Freeport Village Code, chapter § 78-9.

Please advise me of the code-changing process. The weather is warming up and Spring is the perfect season to turn my sparse twosome into a genuine flock of perhaps ten or twelve fine feathered friends. (Hens only; no roosters.)

The benefits of backyard chicken-keeping are many. There’s the daily gathering of delicious eggs; the fun of watching the “ladies” interact; enhancement of the vegetable garden’s composted nutrients; eradication of slugs, snails and other insect pests; hands-on experience for kids and grandkids learning about responsibility and quality of life for self, family, and community.

Governments local and national talk-the-talk of supporting green living, reducing the carbon footprint and embracing home-grown food sources. Keeping a small flock of backyard hens requires minimal effort and expense to actually walk-the-walk and have fun while helping to heal the earth literally in one’s own backyard.
/signed Carolyn XXXXX
Stealth suggestion is to not send the above letter; and advises me as follows:

"Carolyn: A pointy-headed bureaucrat in Freeport will respond to your letter reciting the existing ordinance with
the added statement that all citizens in Freeport must obey its laws, rules and regulations.

I don't know if you'll get a response outlining how the process for code changes works, but my suggestion
would be to attend a public hearing in which some group of Freeport citizens is presenting a petition
for an exception to or exemption from existing codes for cogent and compelling reasons.

Exceptions and exemptions are much easier to get and are almost routinely granted for people who want to
add an addition to their home for aging parents, or build closer to the property line than the code
permits, or erect a flagpole on their property, a swimming pool for rehabilitation purposes, etc.

After all, you're not trying to pass a law that permits everybody in Freeport to keep a dozen hens
-- you just want Carolyn XXXX to be able to do so.

Once you attend such public hearings and see how things unfold, collar the presenting group(s)
and find out how they did it and the steps taken. Almost invariably they will have legal
representation by a zoning attorney to guide them through the petition process.

One element of that process will be to get signed (possibly notarized) letters from every one of your
surrounding neighbors stating that it's perfectly fine with them for you maintain such
a menagerie. Since they will have such veto power -- one "no" will kill the deal -- that
what should absolutely be done is for you to invite them en masse to a lovely barbeque or
dinner, showing off your hens and henhouse and emphasizing the lack of noise, odor,
unsightliness, or dangers of any kind (like psittacosis).

Hope I've given you thought, and provided the beginnings of a strategy plan."
Thing is though, I'd really love it if everyone in Freeport could have a bunch of egg-laying chickens. I think it makes the Village even more interesting and uniquely modern and avant garde and grass-roots savvy. Also, Freeport has a large immigrant population struggling to make ends meet and it would be a boon to have fresh eggs at their back door every day. I might even suggest being a chicken-keeping resource for the Village if they'd like to encourage the trend. I'd love to run workshops or be a liason for newbies and show them how to join BYC.com and find the answers they need there. Still, I don't want to shoot myself in the foot here. If by being up front and open (i.e. sending the letter), I get a knee-jerk reflex response of "NO !", requiring months of months of enduring Village Hall meetings, and writing petitions and gathering signatures and creating a support dossier of documents attesting to the health and safety of chicken-keeping in other states, counties and villages, blah, blah, blah, maybe it really would be better to breast my cards and go the stealth route as outlined above and just aim for a personal variance for just my household.

I'm not a very stealthy person though; my family jokes that the only thing I could ever do for Machiavelli is make him a sandwich!

So.... what do you BYC's think about all this?

-Carolyn (humom to HennyPenny and ChickenLittle)
I'll check back later when I have more time to read carefully, but off-hand I'd advise you to remove the perfect opp for 10-12 hens part. They're going to immediately assume noise, mess, smell, and rodent issues. We know that's not the case, but you don't want to get them all freaked out from the begining if you go the "open" route.
Interesting. Hmmm. The reason I said "10-12" as a target number is because I really don't want that many. There's only me and him left in this big ole house; kids are grown and gone. We can't really eat all the eggs we'd get from a dozen hens. I just thought that if I asked for a "large" amount, the Powers-That-Be could make it a win-win situation by telling me it's OK to have fewer than what I ask for, but more than is currently allowed. (Of course, if they do allow a dozen and I follow through and actually end up with a flock of twelve hens, I could give the extra eggs to neighbors and to the local soup kitchen.)
You need an option for both! Get your exception first then work to have the law changed. If you can get the exception and can show that it does not cause any problems over an extended period of time, that will help get the law changed.
Look at the different residential zoning and consider putting in a provision that allows extra hens based upon lot size. A postage stamp lot with very close neighbors is probably not nearly as conducive to larger numbers as is a very large lot,

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