Chickens Cause a Flap in Aberdeen
By Tom Embrey
Having ruffled some feathers with an ordinance prohibiting the keeping of live chickens and other fowl in the town, Aberdeen is considering its options.
In the current town ordinances, in-town residents can keep up to four birds if they have at least an acre of land and a pen that is 200 feet off the road and 150 feet from any adjoining structure.
"There is a question as to whether or not that is too restrictive based on the lot sizes," said Kathy Liles, town planning director.
The town board discussed poultry on such non-agricultural properties during a meeting on Monday. Mayor Betsy Mofield said she realizes the issue is a complex one.
"There are some people who find roosters offensive especially early in the morning," she said. "But we also found a lot of people who find them quite likeable, so we are trying to find a balance."
One of the people who find chickens likeable is Mary Lou Barber. A self-described city girl who always wanted to live in the country, she has lived with her husband in Aberdeen for 23 years. They affectionately refer to their home as "Green Acres." There is a garden in the yard that produces plenty of fruits and vegetables, and they do have chickens.
"We've got a farm, and a farm has chickens," she said.
Barber said she first got two show Turkens, or naked-necked chickens, this summer for her 12-year-old granddaughter, who wanted to be involved in 4H. At the time, Barber was unaware she was in violation of the town ordinances.
She said police informed her of the violation in early July - a day before an animal, believed to be a dog, came into the yard and killed the birds.
Since then, Barber has replaced the two birds and added several more. Forced to retire for health reasons, she called the chickens "her babies" and said they give her peace of mind. She even said they have been the impetus for her to start artistic drawing.
"They are my solitude and bring me great joy," she said.
Town officials have said that until someone complained about Barber's chickens, they had not ever received any complaints about people illegally keeping poultry on their property.
Barber gave an impassioned plea to the Town Board, asking it to do what it could to allow her to keep her chickens.
Jake Kenworthy and his wife, Janet, also have chickens and a rooster at their home. He told the board that raising the animals is "all about a sustainable community," adding: "I've never encountered anybody who has complained to me."
Mofield said the goal of the board is to adjust the ordinance so residents can have chickens without offending their neighbors.
"There are some people who don't want to wake up at 5:30 in the morning," she said. "So we want to consider them, too, as we try to resolve this issue. But we do see there are people in favor of being able to raise their own chickens, for their own eggs or other reasons."
Liles said there is a large movement across the country to see chickens as pets in metropolitan areas.
"There are a variety of ways we can tackle this issue," she said, "ranging from noise, fencing, dealing with roosters or coups. There are several ways to address it. I think we can go back and bring you some possible text amendments for consideration - or at least a list of options to work through."
Barber said she would abide by whatever rules the town sets forth.
"All I want to do is live here and be happy," she said. "And having my little chickens makes me happy."
Contact Tom Embrey at email@example.com.
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