Ypsilanti Twp - MI / Association requesting we remove... Please read


In the Brooder
10 Years
May 6, 2009
Ann Arbor Area
And so it's begun...

We started our backyard bird project this spring. I researched the association bylaws and township ordinences and found nothing to prevent our girls. (In fact the bylaws are likely open to interpretation as MANY of our neighbors break them in one way or another, but that's another story!) Anyway, today we received a letter from teh Association telling us our "chickens on unit" are not permitted and they will remove them if we don't by 6/20 or take other action.

We are writing a response and looking for suggestions (maybe from someone who has already gone through this type of fight) overall but especially for the closing which we are still unsure of.

I will try and scan a copy of the article and post it soon too - Please provide any and all thoughts and comments... Here's our response:

Dear Mr. ...,

We received your letter on behalf of the Association regarding our backyard pet birds.

With these birds we do not believe we are in violation of the letter or intent of the association bylaws. After review of the association bylaws, it was, and still is, our understanding that birds as we are maintaining them are allowed under those bylaws.

Article VI, Restrictions, Section 6:
“… The term “animal” or “pet” as used in this Section 6 shall not include small domesticated animals which are constantly caged, such as small birds or fish.”

Addressing some of the other concerns noted in this bylaw article, we are not maintaining these pets for commercial purposes. We are providing appropriate care. We are restraining them so as not to be obnoxious or offensive on account of noise, odor or unsanitary conditions. The birds are constantly caged, and they are not permitted to run loose unattended. The birds do not make use of the common areas. The birds are not considered savage or dangerous. We are attending to the collection and disposal of associated fecal matter.

Regarding the above statements, it is our understanding that birds as we are maintaining them are allowed under those bylaws. We are open to discussing this matter further at your convenience.

The things I see that could be a concern are

1) what breed are your girls? It says small birds, and many chickens would not fit into that classification

2) you mention "backyard bird project"--has the association deemed that dog runs may be built there? Keeping them outside versus inside may be a problem.

3) I personally find the idea that the association may remove them (as compared to requiring you to remove them) extremely offensive--it gives them carte blanche to enter your home, and while I am not a lawyer, I believe that they do not have the legal right to do so.

4) the document says condominium--are you in single family housing or a shared building? (I know that the term is not necessarily in reference to a converted apartment building or hi-rise. I myself live on acreage that is legally defined as being a condominium.)

5) it seems unclear as to whether the not-pets that are small domesticated animals that are constantly caged require permission or not.
I think the first sentence pretty much covers everything:

"No animal, including household pets, shall be maintained by any Co-owner unless specifically approved in writing by the Association, except that a Co-owner may maintain two (2) domesticated dogs or cats, or one of each, within his Condominium unit."

But there may be a loophole in the last sentence:

"The term "animal" or "pet" as used in this Section 6 shall not include small domesticated animals which are constantly caged, such as small birds or fish."

You *could* argue that your chickens are "small domesticated animals" (ie. "small birds"), but you're walking a fine line between that and the term "livestock". If they're housed in a cage, then maybe it would work. Also, you might want to say that they're for educational purposes (4H?).

I'm hoping you have a small bantam breed and not large fowl?

Damn communist communities...

- It's a stretch to think my girls are small by any means. "Small" in any circumstance if undefined is really in the eye of the beholder. But we have 2 EE, 1 RIR, and 1 BO.

- I just didn't want to use the word "chicken" and wanted instead to highlight that they are in fact caged birds. Yes families are allowed small shed/outbuildings and dog runs on each property. I suppose "backyard bird project" shouldn't be used in the letter... I realize they are chickens but I was trying to argue the "bird" aspect - I know too the association could argue (easily) livestock or poultry. There is a current argument happening in the city of Ypsilanti about the difference between "livestock" and chickens. Not sure if it's been settled 100% yet, but as I understood it they were going to allow up to 4 hens, and bee hives on properties! A local guy tried getting milk goats by but that didn't happen...

- You may be correct that they can not enter the backyard (where they are kept) and do anything to remove ANYTHING from my private property...

- We are actually in a subdivision of single-family homes in a mostly rural area. For whatever reason MANY subs adopt "condo bylaws" when they were building here, even though they are single-family homes. Not sure why...

And yes Kathy I am trying to argue that our chickens are "small domesticated animals" (ie. "small birds")... And no too the powers that be may argue otherwise. The township doesn't prohibit them and it appears the section of the bylaws are going to be argued. I know they are all about interpretation, and I'm trying to decide how far to take it.

The letter from the association says they could take monetary action against us, or remove the animals. Neither of which I want since they are well taken care of an maintained. hell they're even less noisy that the MANY neighborhood dogs (including my own!) and we certainly have a MUCH cleaner/neater yard then a good 50% of the homeowners here. I don't want something destroying my property either and these birds are in NO WAY doing that!

I just want to know what to do next or what to include in our argument letter. Then it's just a matter of how far we want to take things. We do have several friends on "farm land" where we might be able to move the coop & girls too, but I would really like to keep them, cage and all, in place in the yard! It's a good learning experience for the kids and it's healthy for us.
There is another recent thread about the Michigan Right to Farm Law. I dont think it applies in your situation because HOAs and Condominiums are private and contractual in nature rather than government.

Sounds like Ypsilanti is not aware that the RTFL trumps city code.

I hate to have to say it, but unless you can get the rules changed, I don't see a lot of hope for you.
Ironic that you are in Ypsi since other communities within 1/2 hour of you allow it.

Tecumseh allows you to have chickens for hobby purposes (4-H, personal eggs, pets) Though a few people sell eggs from their backyards

Clinton allows poultry--a few people in town have a small flock of ducks or chickens

Saline allows poultry but you REALLY have to argue. They have contradictory laws

Ann Arbor allows 4 hens and debating small milk goats currently

Wanna move to Clinton? It's a very cute little town
See that's just it. We live in Ypsilanti Township - They do not have an ordinance prohibiting chickens. Nothing about keeping them either really, but I would guess that is because they have been a rural area for a LONG time...

The City of Ypsilanti (under a different set of ordinances) is fighting for the right to keep them and as the papers have reported looks like they will be able to keep them as well.

It's the association of the subdivision that has sent the letter, and they are discriminating because they do not - equally, across the board to ALL households - apply the bylaws. I can not tell you HOW MANY infractions I see just by walking down my block, and yet those people, especially the ones that break the "bylaws" over and over, have nothing happen to them.

This is one neighbor (and I think I know which one) who has the beef, and you want to hear something funny - if it IS that neighbor, there is several infractions on that property as well. So why cast the stone???

I MIGHT be able to understand if we let them free range, or we weren't taking care of them. No I would understand. But this is differnt. They probably figure, hey there's an unemployed family that won't fight back, so lets go after them to get rid of the chickens because they don't have the money to fight the fight! The neighbor knows that, the association doesn't care, they are acting on whomever made the complaint.

I still believe, that because of that last sentence “… The term “animal” or “pet” as used in this Section 6 shall not include small domesticated animals which are constantly caged, such as small birds or fish.” we can argue for caged domesticated birds - chickens...

I guess I'm crazy, the feedback I am getting is that we won't win and have no leg to stand on...
You can sue to have A bylaw invalidated if IT is not, and has not been enforced. Howver unless ALL bylaws have been not enforced, you cannot use the excuse of "there are all sorts of infractions" to allow the bylaw you are breaking to be ignored.

Selective enforcement (fine some people but not others) of a bylaw is illegal, and will cause the bylaw to be overturned or the fine to be overturned.

However, if they have upheld the bylaw about animals and pets (including the last sentence, then you haven't got a leg to stand on for non-enforcement. The word "small" in the last sentence negates your argument. If you have an OEGB or a serama, you might be able to follow that argument, but the breeds you mentioned are LARGE fowl, and at least the oprington is a quite large breed.

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