Niskayuna’s new town law will permit backyard chickens

One of chickens on exhibit at Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa in 2019.
One of chickens on exhibit at Brookside Museum in Ballston Spa in 2019.

The Niskayuna Town Board on Tuesday unanimously adopted a long-discussed local law that will allow residents to keep backyard chickens in this well-to-do suburban town.

The law, which will go into effect Nov. 1, allows people to keep up to six hens — but no roosters — in approved chicken sheds in their yards. Niskayuna is joining a growing number of communities that are allowing chickens, as public interest has grown in recent years in locally sourced and fresh sources of foods like eggs, even within suburban towns, villages and cities.

The idea of a law allowing people to keep chickens in a town that otherwise has little agriculture has been discussed for a decade or longer. At a virtual public hearing in July, public sentiment was unanimously in favor of the town allowing people to keep the birds. Many felt that small flocks in back yards receive better care than those raised or producing eggs on “factory farms.”

The issue has been on the town’s radar at least since 2011, when a town couple acquired a dozen chicks as “pets,” only to be cited for violating town law for keeping “farm animals” in a residential area.

Under the new law, the board states that “the keeping of chickens can be a safe, productive, nondisruptive practice,” provided the animals are properly cared for. The chickens must have a proper enclosure for nesting and sleeping, one that keeps them safe from weather and predators. Those people keeping chickens will need to obtain a $25 permit annually.

While access to fresh eggs will be a driving factor for many people interested in chickens, they can also be eaten. The law specifically prohibits outdoor slaughter.

Violations of the law — not properly keeping the chickens, or allowing noise or odor to become a problem — would bring the possibility of a fine of up to $250. Any violations could also be considered when the annual permit comes up for renewal.

“Some people think there are going to be a lot of issues with chickens, I really don’t think there are going to be any issues with chickens,” said Councilman John Della Ratta, the main sponsor of the local law.

A number of other communities in recent years have authorized residents with access to back yards to keep small flocks of chickens. Ballston Spa authorized it a year ago, and the city of Albany also recently adopted a law allowing residents to keep chickens. The idea has been at least briefly considered in the city of Schenectady, and Gloversville is currently considering a measure.

Categories: Schenectady County, Your Niskayuna

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