EDITORIAL: No chickens in city without strong regs

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

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

There are a lot of benefits to keeping chickens.

Not only do they provide fresh eggs, they also teach family members about agriculture and sustainable growth, teach kids responsibility, control pests, produce ready-made fertilizer for gardens, and in many places haven’t proven to be much more of a nuisance than dogs or other pets. In a well-controlled environment, chickens can coexist very nicely in a neighborhood.

But chickens also can create issues for neighbors with noise, smell and predators, as well as create extra work for local codes officers.

So if the city of Schenectady is going to allow residents to raise a small number of chickens on their properties, it’s going to have to write the law to ensure the practice has minimal effect on residents and doesn’t overburden city departments already faced with cutbacks due to the covid crisis.

The city can look to other communities, including Niskayuna, Ballston Spa and Albany, for guidance.

But the law specifically needs to be tailored to the city of Schenectady.

For starters, no roosters. Roosters are loud and nasty, and not necessary for chickens to produce eggs. Ban them.

Second, the law must require that a property has adequate space for the chicken housing and fencing area, as well as a buffer from neighbors.

About 3 to 4 square feet is recommended per chicken for a chicken coop and 8 to 10 square feet per chicken for the fenced area. Six to eight chickens could take up a lot of space in a small city lot.

In addition, the coops should meet setback requirements so as not to infringe on neighboring properties.

By setting a minimum lot size and setbacks for chicken areas, the city could limit the number of operations in the city, and therefore limit the impact on city departments and their ability to enforce the regulations and deal with complaints.

Structures should be required to meet strict requirements for  shelters and fenced areas, including having enough space, security from predators like dogs and foxes, and health protections to prevent exposure to weather and the spread of disease.

Like dogs and cats, chickens can be expensive.

In addition to a quality living structure, they require food and veterinary care. As they do when they adopt dogs and cats from a shelter, people who adopt chickens should be required to demonstrate they have the financial means, knowledge, demeanor and space to care for them, meet city regulations and address complaints.

Before the city allows chickens, it needs to consider the many impacts of allowing them and have the regulations in place to manage any problems.

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