Mayor Vince DeSantis has suggested the Common Council consider an ordinance change to allow for a permit system for chicken micro-farming within city limits.
DeSantis said he’s received requests from some city residents who want Gloversville to join the growing urban micro-farming trend. He said he tasked City Attorney Tony Casale with researching an ordinance passed by the city of Albany in 2019 that amended Albany’s codes to allow for the keeping of hens.
“If you really look at the Albany ordinance, it’s pretty restrictive, you have to have a substantial backyard in order to have them at all,” he said. “A lot of the people who are for it, have said to me ‘gee, my kids are little, we have a lot of young children in the neighborhood, it could be educational for them’, and all of that. I think it could be kind of a healthy thing.”
Different cities in the Capital Region have long had different approaches to allowing or prohibiting chicken farming in urban areas. Many older homes in the region still feature backyards and Great Depression-era chicken coops, whether the fowl are allowed in them or not.
In Schenectady, a push to reform the city’s ordinances to allow for chicken farming was squashed last fall, although the Vale Urban Farm has promoted urban farming, including rabbit keeping.
Gloversville Councilman-at-large William Rowback Jr. said the council should consider a legal framework to allow for small urban farming.
“There are people now who have rabbits and people who have chickens, so as long as it’s not a nuisance to the residents, I don’t see a problem with it,” Rowback said.
Albany’s chicken farming ordinance allows any residential dwelling to keep up to one hen per 800 square feet of total lot area exclusive of buildings, with a maximum 8 hens per lot, but no roosters.
While Amanda Bearcroft, Amsterdam’s director of community and economic development, said her city has not considered allowing chicken farming, she said it is a trend for some cities, particularly for ones looking to redevelop vacant parcels into community gardens/farms. She said any city looking at allowing chickens must consider the ‘cock-a-doodle-doo factor’ — roosters crow at sunrise.
“In order for it to be successful you have to make sure roosters are not permitted,” she said. “Roosters fall into the category of a noise ordinance.”
Albany’s law also contains these rules:
• No person shall keep any rooster, which is the male chicken.
• The hens shall be provided with a clean, covered, well-ventilated enclosure, secure from predators and is cleaned regularly to prevent the accumulation of animal waste, feathers, and uneaten food.
• The hens must be kept in the covered enclosure or within a fenced area at all times.
• No enclosure for the hens shall be located closer than 15 feet to an occupied residential dwelling on an adjoining lot, 10 feet to a side yard line and five feet to a rear lot line.
• No part of the enclosure or coop for hens shall be located in front of the front wall plane of a building or side wall plane of a building facing a street.
• Hens shall be fed only from a trough or appropriate container. Scattering of food on the ground is prohibited. Any feed not in use shall be kept in a sealed rat-proof container.
• The person shall obtain a permit from the City Clerk and maintain a facility for keeping hens in compliance with the issuance criteria.
• No hens may be raised for slaughter or slaughtered on site.
In the city of Johnstown, still largely surrounded by rural farmland, the city’s ordinances long allowed for up to 14 chickens on a residential property.
City resident Gary Locatelli, the former president of the Johnstown Senior Center, said in recent years he has noticed a trend of more and more of his neighbors keeping chickens, which he believes has led to a proliferation of foxes and skunks in the neighborhoods of the city.
“We have had numerous foxes and skunks in the neighborhood because of them. I know that because they were killing the chickens,” he said. “I’ve seen skunks going to and coming from the chicken coop area on my morning walks.”
While Locatelli acknowledged that foxes are largely harmless to human beings, he admitted they can be dangerous to small pets.
“If you have a smaller dog, you’d mind them. Another neighbor saw one in his yard jump over his 6 foot fence,” he said. “One morning one stalked us on our walk. As for skunks, it was one year ago today one got inside my fence and sprayed my dog!”
While DeSantis said he doesn’t know if there is much support on the Gloversville council to create a permit system for keeping chickens, he thinks the concept is worth discussing.
“I don’t want to push it too hard, if it’s going to be dead on arrival, but my feeling would be you start out with a limited number, as a trial and see how it goes,” he said. “A couple of the council would like to try that. We might propose something that’s very innocuous, and wouldn’t create a lot of disturbance in the city, and see how it goes, and how people like it. If there’s a lot of complaints, then of course we won’t go forward.”