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Town Votes to Introduce Backyard Chicken Ordinance

A public hearing and final vote will take place on October 18, at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

Mayor Vic DeLuca appears to the the swing vote in the battle of backyard chickens, which looks to come to its conclusion on October 18.

DeLuca cast the deciding vote to introduce the ordinance that would permit a pilot program to allow up to 15 Maplewood households to raise as many as 3 hens for egg production for a one-year period.

Deputy Mayor Fred Profeta and Vice Mayor Kathleen Leventhal gave detailed reasons for supporting the measure; Committeemen Marlon K. Brownlee and Jerry Ryan gave equally definitive reasons for why they are opposed to the pilot program. DeLuca made no comments for or against, simply voting "yes" to introduce the ordinance.

DeLuca was one of the few in the room who did not state an opinion on raising chickens in Maplewood. A number of residents once again appeared at the meeting to voice their opposition or support — with more residents in opposition.

Steven Weber began public comments by saying he felt that the proposal had been refined to reflect residents' concerns and was now "a well-conceived proposal for a highly regulated pilot."

Reesa Salomon of the Green Team was likewise in support: "I believe the Township Committee made the proper changes to the ordinance."

Ruth Ross noted that she loved living on a chicken farm as a girl in Toms River. She felt that "some of these concerns are just not efficient, productive, appropriate as to what chickens are about." In particular, Ross said that concerns of odors from three chickens was "ill-founded and unwarranted."

On the opposing side, several residents made comments.

Marli Craig presented 145 signatures against the ordinance.

Catherine Racette added research that she had performed, citing a 2009 New York Times article titled "When the Problems Come Home to Roost." The story, said Racette, documented the downside of the backyard chicken trend in the Bay Area in California, replete with "diseases with odd names" and unwanted chickens being abandoned to animal shelters. Racette also said that the group Farm Sanctuary raised many concerns about "hobbyists" raising chickens. "They are very much against this," said Racette.

Earlier, Planning Board Chair Tom Carlson had noted what he felt were technical issues with the ordinance. Carlson said that he felt that the ordinance should include criteria for evaluating the success or failure of the pilot. Carlson said that the ordinance also did not specify single-family homes. In addition, he noted that, although the ordinance used the term "backyard" to describe the chickens, it did not specifically restrict chickens to the backyard and that chickens could conceivably be kept in sideyards per the ordinance (although the ordinance did specify that chickens must be kept behind the front setback).

No one speaking at the meeting said that he or she would raise chickens.

Deputy Mayor Profeta cautioned against "losing the forest for the trees."

"The local food movement is well documented," said Profeta, citing healthier food and farming that is good for the environment. "But another enormous factor is the realities of what the industrial egg production industry is." Profeta then, invoking Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma, described chickens that are given feed produced through heavy fertilization and kept immobile in cages with their beaks cut off so as not to peck other birds. He mentioned heavy dosing of the chickens with antibiotics and the use of arsenic.

"I think it's imperative in this country that we provide an alternative," said Profeta.

Catherine Racette October 05, 2011 at 12:21 PM
Additional information on the Farm Sanctuary and the Coalition's Position Statement on it's Backyard Chickens. http://www.farmsanctuary.org/pdf/Collective%20Position%20Statement%20on%20Backyard%20Poultry.pdf http://www.farmsanctuary.org/mediacenter/2009/pr_backyard_chicken.html If people want to be progressive about egg production, supporting chick hatcheries that supply backyard chicks and the practices that go along with them hardly seems like a better alternative to supporting your local farms who engage in good farming and animal welfare practices. We have three farmers markets in Maplewood that sell local fresh eggs. Eat local also means supporting your local farms. (http://maplewood.patch.com/articles/maplewood-gets-its-third-farmers-market-at-millstone) The Farm Sanctuary would agree with Mr. Profeta in his distaste for the industrial egg production industry. The Farm Sanctuary has been working as advocates not only against backyard chicken hobbyists, but also advocates for stronger laws that govern farm animals. Their recent work (which has actually been a 25-year long struggle) has lead to an agreement by the United Egg Producers support of national legislation that will improve the welfare of all egg-laying hens. http://www.farmsanctuary.org/mediacenter/2011/pr_hen_welfare.html If you want to support the local food movement, support your local farmers.
Ruth E. Ross October 05, 2011 at 12:58 PM
And I might add, the products used to mass feed chickens in these huge egg-producing chicken farm complexes must be grown on acres and acres of land and to do that acres and acres of trees must be cut down. - former occasional chicken farm resident. Ruth Ross
Ron McClellan October 06, 2011 at 03:51 PM
Okay . . .this is just silly. 1) Chickens in a back yard do virtually no harm. But do LOTS of good. For one thing, it's simply fun. 2) It teaches kids a little about where our foods come from. 3) This is the United States, and we have a Constitution that is supposed to protect us against an oppressive, over-intrusive government, protect our liberty to engage in activities that make us happy, and protect us from the fickle will of other citizens even if a majority. The bottom line is, NO governmental or regulatory entity has any right to make an ordinance, one way or the other, against something as benign as keeping a few 6 pound birds in the yard for pets or eggs, or even for chicken noodle soup.
Suz stone October 12, 2011 at 12:41 PM
Ron - Chickens in backyards cause lots of problems. So much so that Profeta had to amend the Ordinance to swing the Mayors vote after many people came out to ALL FOUR town meetings to share their 'raising chicken experiences', to expose the so called 'other towns have this ordinance passed' - which is untrue - and of course the ongoing problems with rats plaguing Maplewood that has yet to be rectified and has now expanded to yet another street. Profets should get behind something Green that al of Maplewood could get behind. Plan trip to local NJ farms. There's over 200 of them. Have a family outing and take kids to see and experience all the wonderful things a farm has to offer. Thats how you teach children. Besides the fact that most yards in Maplewood are to small and the chicken smell would carry, feathers, feces - fecal runoff - its all quite delightful. Oh and don't forget to go out in the 4 feet of snow to feed the chickens and properly despose of their waste - which needs to be done every day. And making sure their water supply doesn't freeze. This all doesn't come cheap either. The amount of $ you'd spend on raising chickens, food, cage etc. for a few eggs is ridiculous! Organic, free range, straight from NJ farm and heritage breed eggs are all available locally at Whole foods - or take a trip to your local farm and buy them there. This is a novelty act at best. Profeta needs to get behind something ALL of Maplewood can wrap their arms around.
Suz stone October 12, 2011 at 12:45 PM
"I think it's imperative in this country that we provide an alternative," said Profeta. We do Fred, its called 'any NJ Farm' or an amazing market which provide an enormous variety of eggs.
Ron McClellan October 12, 2011 at 02:32 PM
Actually Suz . . .all ya did was restate all the myths that have already been soundly exposed as myths already. You can click your heels together three times restate the myths . . .and they'll still be myths. It sounds like you don't like chickens. May I suggest you exercise your liberty as an American to . . .well . . .not get chickens if ya don't want to. Conversely, stop trying to impose your baseless fears and myths on others and stop interfering with their liberty to keep them if they choose to. People with mindsets like yours Suz . . .well . . . Unamerican. You should be ashamed.
Ron McClellan October 12, 2011 at 02:48 PM
Sorry Catherine, but the Farm Sanctuary is essentially a group of people who simply don't know much about that of which they speak. For but one example of how clueless these people are, they estimate that "between 20-and fifty percent" of chicks that are sexed are sexed incorrectly. I've been buying chickens from various commercial hatches for about oh . . .30 years now . . . the worst they have done is sent three eventual roosters in a group of 25 baby pullets. Generally only one or two out of twenty five will be incorrectly sexed, so that "20 to 50% are the wrong sex" assertion on the part of this groups website is simply an out and out lie. As are most of the silly claims on their website. So, if you want to support the local food movement, support your local farmers, or better yet . . .experience raising poultry yourself. If you have even half a brain, you will NOT be overrun with vermin , a heater for a drink bucket doesn't cost much, Rarely does Jersey get four feet of snow, and feeding chickens in snow . . .not really as difficult as someone below imagines it would be. A Tip for everyone reading this: If you want to know the pros and cons of keeping chickens . . .best to take advice from someone who actually does it, instead of clueless folks taking wild and irrational guesses at the pros and cons. Or . . .in the case of the Farm Sanctuary group . . . just making stuff up.
Ron McClellan October 12, 2011 at 02:54 PM
"Occasional Chicken Farm Resident" . . .ehh . . . .whatever that means. Ruth: I wonder if maybe a tree or two didn't get sacrificed on your behalf. Do you use paper? Where do you live? What was there before your house was? What is your house made of? Do you only eat products that fell off trees in a forest or something? My guess is "VERY occasionally" Ruth. Now me . . .I have chickens full time. Which is why I'm not parroting myths, but am actually using "knowledge and actual experience" with issues at hand isntead of making stuff up. Go figure!
Suz stone October 12, 2011 at 03:06 PM
Ron - There were FOUR Town Council meetings where at any time you (or any other person in support) could have attended and heard some expert testimony on raising chickens and dispelled your 'myths'. Or heard what coops can do to property value, or the Ordinances in the surrounding towns that do not allow backyard chickens. Or heard how our Ordinance was re-worked because the concerns of Maplewoodians WHO CAME OUT to the meetings proved to have some very valid concerns. Or the town petition that has many signatures of people who oppose backyard chickens. Its not UnAmerican to stand up for something you're opposed to, nor is it UnAmerican to stand in support of something. Unfortunately folks like you didn't come to the meeting to gather all the information provided before the town council to educate yourselves.
Nick Muson October 12, 2011 at 03:20 PM
Oh jeez, give it a rest with the meetings already, Suz. No one cares about the meetings except you and a few other chicken haters. And you know why? BECAUSE IT'S RIDICULOUS.
Ron McClellan October 12, 2011 at 06:41 PM
Actually you are not correct Suz. I challenge you to demonstrate any substantive information whatsoever that demonstrates the mere presence of a backyard coop lowers a property value, of either the property itself or an adjoining property. You can't. Why? Because . . .well . . . mainly because it doesn't. And Suz, I live in a town that allows backyard chickens. I'm even on a first name basis with our Animal Control officer. Know how much money they spend on dealing with chicken nuisances? Ehh . . .none, so far, in the three years we've had a dedicated animal control officer. What you refer to is mythical concerns, on the parts of the residents, and this is rather easily demonstrated by the reality that pretty much ANY town that considers ruling agianst keeping chickenes can't even count on their own Animal control data to illustrate a need. They have to rely on . . .well . . .folks like you with no actual experience complaining that the sky will fall if chickens are allowed. And it is Unamerican to want to deny your neighbor a liberty, simply because you are unexperienced and woefully ill-informed about the realities of chicken-keeping. You clearly haven't educated yourself, Suz, or you wouldn't be making some of the fallacious arguments you are attempting. I'm not sure what you aren't getting here. I am actually raising a flock of Backyard chickens.
Suz stone October 12, 2011 at 07:08 PM
Ron, I'm proud to say my neighbors and I fought a good fight for what we believe in here in Maplewood. We stood up for what we wanted and let our town officials know. This isn't an argument with you because we said what we had to say to the people that matter in own town. Good luck to you and your backyard chickens but we believe they are wrong here in Maplewood. Where we live. Take care, s.
Ron McClellan October 12, 2011 at 07:28 PM
Sad you fought such a pointless and baseless fight against peoples liberty. I wouldn't call that anything to be proud of Suz. It's actually quite shameful on your part. You may have "said what you had to say" . . .but unfortunately, if you said what you said in this thread . . .you were lying to and/or misleading your officials. Hopefully the people who actually know something keeping backyard chickens aren't calling it quits and will continue to contest the asinine, fiction-based infringements placed on them by overbearing zealots such as yourself and an uninformed local governance.
Suz stone October 12, 2011 at 07:36 PM
Ron, Not interested in having an argument with you online, plain and simple. We said what we had to say at the town meetings to the officials that matter. We live in Maplewood and we stand by our convictions and concerns for our lovely town. Have a nice day.
Ron McClellan October 12, 2011 at 07:55 PM
Well lets hope your officials actually did a little looking into it and they realize you were pretty much just making it up as you went along. I have no problem discussing issues online, and doing it in depth, since fallacious arguments are easily exposed in two way discourse. Folks who don't like discussing issues publicly and where what they claim can be seen by all . . .really hate that. You have a nice day too, Suz.

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