EDITORIAL: Rotterdam chicken ordinance addresses concerns

FILE - Chickens exiting a chicken coop behind 255 Kings Road in Schenectady.

FILE - Chickens exiting a chicken coop behind 255 Kings Road in Schenectady.

The issues that many communities have with allowing residents to keep chickens on their properties focus on space, smell, noise, predators and enforcement.

A new proposed ordinance in Rotterdam that will allow residents to keep up to six chickens for private use adequately addresses most of those concerns.

Before they vote on the ordinance tonight, town officials who support the idea will need to assure residents they can manage the last one – enforcement.

Backyard chickens have long been a controversial issue over obvious concerns, many which can be addressed by requiring adequate space for the chickens, prohibiting roosters, requiring enough distance from surrounding properties to limit the smell, requiring regular cleaning, and ensuring the security of the chicken coops.

Local Law 7 to amend Town Code in Rotterdam addresses those issues.

First off, under this ordinance, properties must be at least 9,000 square feet, the equivalent of 95 feet by 95 feet square.

The ordinance requires a 25-foot setback from surrounding properties, with no coops built in front yards or side yards.

It requires that chicken owners have 4 square feet of space per animal and a chicken run of at least 10 square feet per bird. That’s in keeping with standard recommendations of 3 to 4 feet of coop space per bird and 8 to 10 square feet of fenced-in outside area.

Regarding noise, chickens cluck at about 60 decibels, or about the level of human conversation. Roosters are biggest concern when it comes to noise. They cock-a-doodle-do at all hours and their crowing can reach 135 decibels, about the same level you would hear standing 50 feet from a jet plane taking off. This ordinance bans roosters.

Another issue is security. Chickens attract the same predators that also prey on family pets. Their food and waste can also attract rodents and other vermin. This ordinance requires a covered, well-ventilated predator-resistant structure and enclosures to keep chickens from escaping.

The ordinance requires cleaning of waste on a “sufficiently regular schedule,” at least weekly, to keep the smell down and discourage rodents, pests and parasites.

Owners would be required to obtain permits each year, and the building inspector would have to sign off on an inspection of the coop and enclosures. For those that violate the conditions, the town could revoke permits for up to two years. That should prevent irresponsible chicken owners from perpetually disturbing their neighbors.

And given that there’s no commercial incentive for keeping the birds, responsible owners are likely to follow the law.

As written, the proposal appears to address the concerns of both owners and neighbors.

If the town feels it has the personnel and time to adequately enforce these very clear rules, the town should allow the practice.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Rotterdam

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