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EDITORIAL: Chicken idea lays an egg in Schenectady

EDITORIAL: Chicken idea lays an egg in Schenectady

No need to add another matter for city enforcement officers to regulate
EDITORIAL: Chicken idea lays an egg in Schenectady
Jeff Hotaling is among the city residents asking City Council to consider an ordinance allowing backyard chickens.
Photographer: Pete DeMola/Gazette Reporter

Schenectady police and code officials have enough on their plates without the City Council inviting a new problem for them to enforce.

So while we understand the desire of people to enjoy fresh chicken eggs hatched right in their own backyards, the City Council should reject a proposal to allow residents to raise chickens on city properties.

It just opens the door to a whole host of potential issues, not the least of which is adding yet another burden to the city’s already overburdened enforcement personnel.

A small contingent of urban farmers calling themselves “eggvocates” (clever name, you have to admit) is seeking to have the council pass legislation similar to a new two-year pilot program in the city of Albany that would allow residents to raise up to six chickens in their backyards.

Supporters say allowing people to raise a small number of chickens on their city lots would promote food sustainability and an appreciation for agricultural practices, and provide fertilizer for backyard vegetable gardens.

Like the Albany legislation, roosters would be banned. The Albany law also sets restrictions on square footage for each hen, establishes setbacks from neighboring properties, stipulates how coops must be constructed and maintained, and establishes a $25 annual fee. 

The city codes staff in Albany will be tasked with enforcing the new law. And that’s the crux of our problem with allowing the chickens in Schenectady.

Schenectady already has enough challenges enforcing its codes without sending inspectors out to check on the number of chickens being kept or measuring the size of chicken coops or issuing citations for setback violations. 

Wouldn’t residents rather have codes officers ensuring that multi-family homes have smoke alarms and sprinklers, that buildings aren’t falling down, and that sidewalks are maintained? 

While many who raise chickens will follow the rules and maintain their properties, as we all know, many will not. Some will build unsightly structures and won’t care for the birds or clean up after them adequately, bringing complaints from neighbors about noise, smell and aesthetics.

That means more calls to police.

People want safer streets. They want police to fight the drug problem and crack down on drunk driving. They want police to respond to emergencies and enforce traffic laws and interact with the community. Do Schenectady residents really want police investigating complaints about smelly or loud chickens on top of everything else?

If people want farm-fresh eggs, there are plenty of options available at local farms and farmers’ markets nearby.

The city has enough to deal with without adding the duties of farming police to its list of obligations.

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