Keeping of chickens topic of discussion in St. Johnsville, Rotterdam (with 5 photos)

Angela Jones with one of her chickens in their St. Johnsville backyard Wednesday. Her daughter Zoe, 14, can be seen at left.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Angela Jones with one of her chickens in their St. Johnsville backyard Wednesday. Her daughter Zoe, 14, can be seen at left.

ST. JOHNSVILLE The village of St. Johnsville has tabled a proposed law to prohibit residents from raising and keeping chickens after the public spoke in support of chicken-keeping at a meeting this week.

The village board decided to review the proposal following a public hearing Tuesday evening in which everyone who spoke supported the idea of allowing them.  

One resident against prohibiting them was Angela Jones, who has raised chickens for five years. 

One of the reasons Jones said she supports allowing chickens is because of inflationary costs.

“Based on the markets, a carton of a dozen large eggs was priced $1.93 in March,” said Steve Ammerman, a spokesperson for the state Farm Bureau. “Today, the commodity market has a dozen eggs priced at $3.42.  Even with inflation, the current price is $.28 an egg, a value for a serving of protein.”

In part, the cost of eggs is up, because of a supply shortage and because of avian flu, he said. Demand has also subsided as more people cook at home, he said.

“At the same time, farmers are also dealing with inflation as the price of chicken feed and labor are increasing on-farm expenses. Not sure how much longer this will last,” he said.

Jones also busted some other myths about owning chickens. 

The village cited potential health risks like salmonella exposure as a reason for proposing the chicken ban. However, Jones said salmonella also has been found in lettuce, peanut butter and other fruits and vegetables. 

Angela Jones’ chickens (5 photos)

Angela Jones with one of her chickens in their St. Johnsville backyard Wednesday PETER R. BARBER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Angella Jones with some of her chickens in their St. Johnsville backyard Wednesday PETER R. BARBER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Angella Jones with some of her chickens in their St. Johnsville backyard Wednesday PETER R. BARBER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Benjamin Jones, 10, feeds chickens weeds from his backyard in St. Johnsville Wednesday PETER R. BARBER/THE DAILY GAZETTE
Benjamin Jones, 10, feeds chickens weeds from his backyard in St. Johnsville Wednesday PETER R. BARBER/THE DAILY GAZETTE

“Common sense says wash your hands,” she said. “The further we are removed from growing our own food the more it is handled by humans and the higher the risk of becoming sick from germs like salmonella.”

She also said chickens are not smelly or dirty. In fact, she said, chickens will spend hours dust-bathing and cleaning themselves. 

“I don’t know about you, but I have a teenager – she doesn’t do that,” she said jokingly. 

She also said the chickens themselves don’t smell, it’s the animal waste. 

“All animal waste smells,” she said. “When you manage chickens properly, you don’t get odors.”

As for noise, she said hens and roosters are no louder than a barking dog, which at one meter is 70 to 100 decibels. 

“A rooster, which is a lot louder than a hen, is only 48 decibels,” she said. 

The village shouldn’t limit flocks because hens don’t lay eggs every day due to various factors, like seasons or stress, she said.

St. Johnsville resident Dawn Lamphere said she’s lived next to people who have owned chickens. 

“I’ve only heard a slight murmuring of some hens on one occasion,” she said.

She also said the five boroughs of New York have a long tradition of allowing backyard chickens.

Nearby Dolgeville – an 18-minute drive or so from St. Johnsville – chickens are allowed, according to the law provided by the board. That law was approved in 2016. In Dolgeville, homeowners and anyone with approval from their landlord would be allowed to own eight female chickens upon approval from the Planning Board, according to the law. The application is $15. Those with chickens must have a coop constructed at least 20 feet from the house and at least five feet from the abutting property. There must also be a 4- to 6-foot fence installed. 

Anyone caught violating the law would first receive a warning letter, A second violation would result in a $50 fine. If a third violation occurred then the person wouldn’t be allowed a permit for five years and if they received a fourth then they would no longer be able to get a permit at all. 

Backyard chickens have also become a topic of discussion in Rotterdam, where the town currently allows the fowl to be kept in an agricultural district only. 

But around a half-dozen residents attended a Town Board meeting last week to urge lawmakers to allow chickens to be kept in backyards throughout town.

The group, some carrying signs that read “Protect Our Feathered Friends,” gathered in support of Denise Lagasse, a local resident who has maintained six chickens in her backyard for the past nine years, despite the animals being prohibited. 

Lagasse said someone recently filed a complaint about her chickens, a move, she said, blindsided her since she has never had any issues with the animals in the past. 

In fact, Lagasse said neighbors frequently stop by to visit the animals, and her family routinely gives out eggs they collect daily.  

She pressed town lawmakers for more information on the complaint and urged them to adopt a law to allow all residents to keep chickens. Lagesse also provided the Town Board with a petition and information about the benefits of keeping chickens. 

Nearby Niskayuna currently allows residents to maintain chickens with a permit, as does the town of Guilderland in Albany County. 

Allowing backyard chickens has been a topic of discussion in recent years in Schenectady, which currently only allows chickens to be kept for “educational, artistic or entertainment purposes” with the approval of the city’s corporation counsel. 

Meanwhile, Lagasse said allowing chickens would allow residents to have access to fresh eggs, which she noted are a great source of nutrients. Chickens, she said, also eat ticks and are relatively easy to maintain. 

“I think as long as people get a permit and abide by some of the rules that are outlined, I don’t see why backyard chickens have to be such an issue,” she said. 

Since taking office earlier this year, Rotterdam Town Supervisor Mollie Collins said she has heard from multiple residents seeking to keep backyard chickens.

She said the town’s zoning officer has recently started drafting an ordinance to allow chickens based on information from other municipalities and told Lagasse that residents’ concerns about maintaining the animals have not been ignored.

It’s unclear if or when the town would move to allow chickens. An ordinance would have to be released and a public hearing would need to be held before any law is adopted.

Collins did not return a request seeking comment Wednesday.

“We have had our zoning officer look at other codes in different areas to see whether or not we can come up with a code for Rotterdam,” she said last week. 

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