Advocates hatch campaign to legalize backyard chickens in Schenectady

Hopefuls want to follow Albany's example
Jeff Hotaling is among the city residents asking City Council to consider an ordinance allowing backyard chickens.
Jeff Hotaling is among the city residents asking City Council to consider an ordinance allowing backyard chickens.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

SCHENECTADY — Fred Durocher, Jr. said he never used to eat eggs.

But after spending time at Vale Urban Farm, he fell in love with what he said was a “magical” feeling. 

“When you get them from cartons and the grocery store, you don’t really get that feeling,” Durocher said. 

He and his father were among the dozen or so city residents who took to City Hall on Monday to push for the legalization of backyard chickens. 

Vale Urban Farm previously secured permission to foster about a dozen chickens, a measure supporters said helped spur an appreciation for urban farming.  

“I never imagined I would become an urban agricultural activist or supporter,” said Chad Putman. 

But he said it has been “amazing” to watch the interaction flourish between young people and families and their new fine-feathered friends.

Speakers asked the City Council to adopt legislation similar to an ordinance passed in Albany in July allowing residents to keep as many as six chickens in their backyard (but no roosters).

Advocates, each of whom wore stickers that read “fresh eggs,” painted the measure as one that would bolster food sustainability, promote locally grown food, cull food waste and have positive impacts on the environment.

Jeff Hotaling said the sandy soil in Schenectady is not conducive to growing vegetables.

And, he said: “It’s very important for urban families to experience farming life.” 

S. Rajkumar said keeping chickens is a central aspect of life in Guyana, providing a “joyous” experience.”

Ellie Pepper said chickens have helped divert her attention away from chronic pain. 

“One of the things that made me not think about it was going and sitting in the coop with the chickens,” Pepper said. “Plus chicken poop is the gold standard for fertilizer.” 

Many brought their children, including Susan Astyk and Suri Devi, who lives across from Value Urban Farm, which is located off Brandywine Avenue.

“We are over there almost every day,” Devi said. “We want the chickens in our backyards.”

Under current city ordinance, chickens are only allowed for educational and cultural purposes and must be approved by the city corporation counsel on a case-by-case basic. 

The “eggvocates” delivered comments during the City Council’s biweekly public comment period, and no legislation has been formally proposed or drafted.

They sent city council members away with a gift-wrapped basket of locally-grown eggs.

“It’s nice to be given eggs instead of having them thrown at us,” said Councilman Vince Riggi. 

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