This may be helpful: An Open Letter to Mark Taylor

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances' started by greengardenvienna, Oct 22, 2008.

  1. greengardenvienna

    greengardenvienna Hatching

    Oct 22, 2008
    Hi all,

    We are about to face a backyard chicken ban in our tiny village of Vienna Ontario (Canada). Right now, the law is murky, banning "livestock" not banning chickens as pets or hobbies. Council is considering an outright ban.

    I wrote an open letter in response to a decision at the last council meeting. Perhaps others will find it helpful in their battles over dumb laws and short-sighted, naive politicians.

    Here's the link:

    Great site, btw.


  2. EweSheep

    EweSheep Flock Mistress

    Jan 12, 2007
    Land of Lincoln
    sorry no link, we can not access to this link. [​IMG]
  3. Fudgie

    Fudgie Hatching Queen - Got Fudge?

    I can get to the link I will paste it in here......

    An open letter to Mark Taylor
    Tuesday, 21 October 2008
    Dear Mark,

    It's clear that you're serious about your job as ward one councillor, so I commend your resolute stand on the backyard chicken issue in Bayham. But I urge you to please think again with a more open mind, because sooner than later there will probably be a chicken coop in your yard.

    I wasn't at the meeting where our council looked at options for a chicken-control bylaw, prompted by Mat Redsell's chicken coop in Port Burwell, but Mat tells me that eventually, after much prying, you revealed that you disapprove of chickens because of the aesthetics.


    It's an apt word, having to do with judgments about what property owners ought and ought not do with their land. However, if we are going to start banning things because they are ugly, who will be the judge of the beauty contest?

    Look at all the neglected properties littered with rusty ancient farm implements. Look at the front yards filled with old vehicles-- or even the ubiquitous truck with the “for sale” on it.

    What about the monstrously ugly McMansions that are metastizing across from the Straffordville Community Centre? Or the “snout houses” that are 99% garage, with no discernable front door, and a house tacked on as an afterthought? What about the pre-fab metal barns that are allowed to be built right next to the road or in front of cemeteries?

    Ugliness is everywhere in our built landscape. And if you don't mind (or actually like) the above examples, then you've proven my point: aesthetic judgments are always subjective. There is no consistent set of criteria that can be used to distinguish the ugly from the not-ugly. It is all a matter of personal taste. Mark, are you claiming to be the arbitrator of taste in Bayham? Or maybe Bayham should hire an expert (or a consultant!) on aesthetics to do the job.

    Even if we assembled a committee of aesthetic experts and somehow agreed to live by their rules, someone in Bayham would be appalled by the house designs they approve. Current bylaws don't ban ugly houses, barns or outbuildings. How then would we ban ugly chicken coops?

    Perhaps the “aesthetics” of backyard chickens have more to do with the social meaning. To some people, especially people who came of age in the 50s, a coop in the yard signified poverty at best and, at worst, a kind of hillbilly anachronism that betrayed a neighbourhood's lack of modernity. This gets close to class-based social distinctions: a chicken coop meant that the family was not only poor but rough, peasant-like, perhaps (gasp!) “foreign”, likely unshod and unschooled, and certainly not the kind of stock you want spreading their progeny throughout your nice shiny homogenized neighbourhood.

    At university, in my conceptual analysis course, I was taught to look for the underlying fear behind ideas and beliefs. What is there to fear from a chicken coop? Does all of Bayham harbour a pent-up passion for chickens that will suddenly wreak aesthetic armaggedon if council makes a bylaw allowing—and regulating—the keeping of chickens in backyards? Of course not. A few people may put up coops, but there will be no stampede.

    Mark, I think I know the real reason behind the prejudice against the noble henhouse. Money. Property values, to be more specific. Well, if you haven't already noticed, no one is buying houses these days. The real estate bubble has burst and if you're waiting for the rich dude from Toronto to buy up your house so you can retire on a yacht, well ... think again. That rich dude's pension just tanked and his company can't renew its bank loan. Coop or no coop, that house is gonna sit there a long, long time.

    Eventually the marketplace will catch up with reality and view the backyard coop in the same light as gables and garages and landscaping. Desirable real estate will have features such as clean water, good soil, fruit trees, and community members who have skills that are useful in an economy that is non-industrialized and local. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

    Even if the furthest you've travelled is Toronto, consider the cities of Seattle, Ottawa, Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City. These cities allow, and regulate, the keeping of backyard hens. Bayham can join the growing number of progressive, informed jurisdictions that understand how chickens can fit into the urban scene and actually make neighbourhoods better, healthier places.

    Hens provide healthy eggs, quality fertilizer, garden help, and a rewarding hobby. They are more interesting pets than hamsters or goldfish. They can also bring neighbourhoods together, as coop owners share the knowledge, benefits, and obligations of keeping chickens. Ask Mat Redsel how the neighbourhood children reacted to his hens. These kids are learning and working and seeing how the sustainable homestead of the future might look like. But I'm getting ahead of myself again.

    As Mat's young helpers know, chickens make great pets. They don't bark all day or yowl all night, like our “normal” pets do. A well-designed, well-kept hen house doesn't smell or attract vermin. The keeping of backyard hens can be regulated to minimize the impact on neighbours (by specifying, for example, the distance from property boundaries). Rules should also deal with the animals' health, by specifying the coop size for the number of birds. Roosters, of course, would not be allowed.

    I've seen chicken coops that were works of art, beautifully designed and always clean and freshly painted. Coops can also be plain and utilitarian. A responsible hen keeper will not resent sensible laws designed to ensure the health and well-being of the hens. Council can, and should, regulate the keeping of chickens so that the health of the chickens comes first. And, like other laws governing public rights and obligations, it would be complaint-driven, as are our other nuisance and health bylaws.

    But laying aside the lack of any coherent rationale for banning backyard hens, I want to take a big step backwards and suggest that hen houses will be part of our future. Whether we like it or not, we are headed for a downturn that may make the dirty thirties look like a bad-hair day. The Great Depression was a failure of the financial system. What we are facing in the next few decades is the collapse of most planetary systems. All, yes ALL, natural systems (ecological, hydrological, biological and biogeochemical cycles) are under stress and some are on the brink of failure.

    Now before I start going on about peak oil, which I do too often, consider what will happen when gas gets to, say, $4 a litre. Leave aside the fact that our agriculture system literally runs on oil, and think about the collapse of the commercial trucking industry. With just-in-time delivery so prevalent, supermarkets have a two-day supply of food. When the dark days of the depression come, I want to have some hens in the back yard. In a really ugly coop.

    My point is that hard times are coming. Even if you accept only the part about a depression-- even a recession-- the fact remains that hens in the backyard could soon be keeping families alive. This is not mere hyperbole. In the thirties, people who stayed on, or returned to, rural areas avoided the violence, disease and overbearing lassitude of the cities. People were poor, but they had food.

    At some point in the future, probably in our lifetimes, having a healthy, fresh protein source in the backyard will trump any petty bylaw Bayham may have on the books.

    People may not wait until Bayham is broke and can't pay its clerk or bylaw enforcement officer. The bylaw officer may simply stop responding to “chicken” complaints. Eventually the complaints will stop. Because when it comes to a choice between feeding the family and having an un-aesthetic henhouse, well guess which side wins?

    In fact, Mark, I could envision an election campaign slogan of "a chicken in every yard, and an egg in every pot".

    If you are interested in discussing this issue further, Mark, before an anticipated public meeting on any change to the by-laws, we could meet over breakfast at Mat's. I hear he serves up a mean poached egg.

    Bev Wagar,
  4. HeatherHillary

    HeatherHillary In the Brooder

    Oct 9, 2008
    Portland OR
    Excellent response! Articulate, eloquent, true, and entertaining! I aspire to your letter-writing ability!

  5. bock to the future

    bock to the future In the Brooder

    Oct 31, 2008

    I love your letter! We are trying to get the laws changed in our city right now... and your letter addresses all of the issues we are hitting. How would you feel if we used your letter in our fight, but addressed it to our city council members? I am afraid that I could not word it any better than you have done. Let me know how you feel about our using it.

  6. hinky toes

    hinky toes In the Brooder

    Nov 1, 2008
    Bozeman, MT
    Very good. I don't think you could be any more persuasive.

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