Advocates renew push to allow backyard chickens in Schenectady

Jeff Hotaling, seen here in this 2019 file photo, is among the city residents advocating for backyard chickens.
Jeff Hotaling, seen here in this 2019 file photo, is among the city residents advocating for backyard chickens.

SCHENECTADY — Advocates are hoping a new push to allow backyard chickens will come out sunny side up.

As localities across the region are adopting laws allowing residents to keep backyard hens, several city residents hope Schenectady will be the latest to allow the practice.

Advocates again pitched the idea to the City Council on Monday.

Access to fresh eggs is just one perk.

Chickens also control pests, minimize food waste and provide garden fertilizer while at the same time providing therapeutic benefits for senior citizens and children, said Ellie Pepper.

Backyard coops also promote sustainable local food culture, she said.

“It’s more important than ever for us to be self-sustainable and have local access to food,” Pepper said.

Pepper and Chad Putman, former deputy city clerk who remains active in city affairs, renewed their efforts following recent successes in Niskayuna, where the Town Board recently approved legislation that takes effect Nov. 1.

Backyard chickens are also permitted in Ballston Spa and Albany;  Gloversville is mulling similar legislation.

Advocates previously pitched the concept to the City Council in August 2019, sending lawmakers off with egg-laden gift baskets.

Lawmakers later met with residents. Budget season, however, delayed talks, and discussions ground to a halt during COVID-19.

Now proponents believe the city can simply use Niskayuna’s legislation as a blueprint and make minor modifications if needed.

“It looks basic, simple and looks as if it would meet our needs,” Putman said last week.

Legislation adopted by the Niskayuna Town Board last month allows residents to keep up to six hens in approved sheds after obtaining an annual permit for $25.

Violations of the law, including not properly keeping the chickens or allowing noise or odor to become a problem, would bring the possibility of fines up to $250.

Chickens must have a proper enclosure for nesting and sleeping, one that keeps them safe from weather and predators, and the law prohibits their slaughter.

The City Council’s Governmental Operations Committee will revisit the issue in two weeks after reviewing materials from Niskayuna.

The renewed effort comes after the U.S. saw a surge in demand for eggs, leading wholesale egg prices to rise as much as 50 percent in some parts of the country in March, a demand that later resulted in people panic-buying of baby chickens.

Pepper pointed to the spike, noting a local farm had to refund her Community Supported Agriculture membership because they simply couldn’t keep up with demand.

At present, chickens are only allowed in the city for educational and cultural purposes and must be approved by the city’s law office on a case-by-case basis.

Vale Urban Farm has a variance, and Putman harbors its seven hens at his home in the city’s Woodlawn neighborhood throughout the winter.

Pepper said skeptics shouldn’t worry about noise. At 70 decibels, noise emitted from hens and chicks clocks in at a level comparable to standard conversation — far lower than 90 decibels generated by lawnmowers and barking dogs.

Roosters are banned in both Albany and Ballston Spa.

“Roosters are where most of the noise comes from,” Pepper said.

Categories: News, Schenectady County


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