Backyard chickens a growing trend - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Backyard chickens a growing trend, some cities amending ordinances, others cry fowl

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(10/29/2012) - It's an issue some cities never thought they'd have to deal with: chickens in the city. More people want to know where their food is coming from, so they're raising chickens in their backyards.

Raising chickens is nothing new, but owning them within city limits has many officials scrambling. Some are changing their rules to allow chickens in the city, but others say, no way.

"They're pets sort of, you watch them and they do strange things and they act in a strange way, they're fun to be around," said Fred Smith of Taymouth Township in Saginaw County.

Smith inherited his chickens when his daughter flew the coop and moved out of the country. But now, he loves his hens.

"We get the eggs and they also provide the fertilizer and it's a little connection to my daughter too," Smith said.

One of the biggest draws to owning backyard chickens is being able to raise them yourself; that way, people know exactly where their eggs are coming from.

"I'm not against eating eggs at the grocery store but these do not compare with those," Smith said. "They're just so much more fresh, just stand up in the pan, the yoke is orange, it's really rich and good for eating."

Taymouth Township does have rules about owning chickens. The township says they aren't allowed in sub divisions.

Smith is allowed to own chickens on his block, but not every municipality likes the idea of chickens in residents' backyards.

"I believe the constitution affords me the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and this is my pursuit of happiness and they're taking that away from me," said Joe Fiordaliso, who lives in the city of Midland.

A retired police officer and air force veteran, he wanted something to keep him busy, so about a year and a half ago he bought a few chickens and ducks.

"Unbeknownst to me there's an ordinance here in Midland against keeping farm animals in the city limits," he said. "A couple of my neighbors turned me in, they knew there was an ordinance and I didn't."

So Joe went through the proper pecking order to change that ordinance to allow backyard chickens in the city. He took it to the planning commission and they approved.

But when it went to the full city board, they didn't agree. We spoke with a commissioner on the phone, and he said they just didn't feel that chickens are a good fit for midland. They were concerned about passing disease, and bad smells.

Joe says his chickens were clean and barely made a peep.

"My chickens didn't cause any obnoxious smells, they didn't make any noise, I didn't have any roosters, they're enclosed," he said.

He tried to fight it, but conceded.

"They want to play hardball, they have the right this is their city but I live here, I have a piece of property here, it's like being in a deed restricted community," Fiordaliso said.

Some cities cry fowl at the idea of urban chickens, but others are giving it a try. Fenton just passed an ordnance that says city residents can own three hens, as long as they apply for a permit every year.

They weren't sure it was a good idea when a resident first approached them.

"After I read through a couple of the ordinances it kind of put my mind at ease that, you know, with three chickens it's something that's controllable," said Sue Osborn, Fenton's mayor.

And now chickens are a go in the city. Only one person has a permit so far, but more people do seem interested.

"Part of the problem with the recession that started around 2007 or eight, people looked at what they were doing and found out it wasn't sustainable," said Lynn Markland, Fenton's city manager.

Food security, food safety and fun are just a few of the reasons more people are keeping backyard fowl.

"There are so many different kinds, some will be blue eggs and brown eggs and white eggs and green eggs and I guess if you had this with ham they'd be green eggs and ham," Smith joked.

So as long as people are thinking about where their food is coming from, or they're looking for a feathery friend, it looks like this trend is just getting started.

Some cities and townships are dealing with this issue right now. A few people are trying to get an ordinance passed to allow backyard chickens in Birch Run township.

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