Chickens of Oakland County, Where Does Your Community Stand?

Chickens of Oakland County, Where Does Your Community Stand?

(Crystal A. Proxmire, Aug. 3, 2017)

Oakland County, MI – Jackson Clementz loves his chickens.  The five year old spends time chasing and petting the three black New England Reds and three Red Sex Links that live in a pen in his grandfather’s backyard in Holly.

All of them have the same name. When the chickens are being quiet and friendly, he calls them “Jackson,” and when they’re being squawky he names them “Stinker.”

The Village of Holly recently changed their ordinance so residents could have six birds, up from the previous limit of three.  As in many communities, Village of Holly officials have had to research and consider their chicken ordinances to find a balance for property owners, neighbors and the welfare of the animals.

“We had citizens request the change,” said Village Manager Jerry Walker.  “Chickens are really social animals and it’s healthier for them to be in groups.”  He added that the hens tend to bond in pairs, so four or six chickens is more ideal quantity than three.

Backyard chicken have been allowed in the village as long as he can remember.  “Chickens are a non issue here.  We haven’t had any problems.”

BERKLEY

Ordinances in other communities vary, but interest in suburban chickens has been increasing.  On June 5, the City of Berkley passed a test ordinance of one year to issue a limited number of permits.  “Berkley’s approach was to create a pilot program where 5 permits for backyard chickens would be issued for the first year,” said City Manager Michael Baumgarten.  “After this pilot concludes the City Council will revisit the matter and either make alterations to the text of the ordinance for approval or conclude that this use is not correct for Berkley and decide not to move forward on it.”

Berkley resident Marisa Weber had been one of the proponents of getting a chicken ordinance in Berkley, although she is not stepping up to be one of the five test cases.

“I will not be one of the first to apply with city. Although I would really like to help figure out how this will work for our city, I have so many other commitments. I do not wish to fail in protecting the cities values, nor in helping find a way to make this work for all parties,” Weber said.

“I was not sold on chickens until I witnessed others. At first I thought it was a fad that wouldn’t fit in with city living, but I quickly changed my mind. Being able to control the diet of the chickens is incredibly important to me. You have a higher quality source of eggs when the chickens are maintained appropriately. There is a world of a difference from store bought, and to me it is worth the start-up and maintenance costs of keeping a small chicken coop.”
Weber said she approached Councilperson Steve Baker years ago with the idea, which resurfaced recently after a resident was told my Animal Control to remove their pets from the coop in their backyard.
“I pitched the idea to him to figure out if there was a way to make this work. Steve has always been a wonderful person to bounce ideas off of and always shares good points, as well as a good perspective on all angles. He continued to keep me in the loop and notified me earlier this year that they would be addressing this at the meeting. I spoke in front of the council members urging them to also look more closely,” she said.  “I am truly glad that they did not vote that day, as there were plenty of concerns that needed to be addressed prior to a yes/no vote. My biggest concern is the humane treatment of the animals and an exit strategy in case it does not work out. I am also concerned with what will happen when the chickens no longer are producing eggs.”
FERNDALE
In Ferndale, Adam Loomis, an inspector with the city, said there are now 22 homes with registered chickens. “Our city started off with a strong ordinance and thorough guidelines for the keeping of chickens, so we have not had any notable teaching moments or need for revisions,” he said.
When asked the benefit of allowing chickens, Loomis said “The benefit to the city is in providing our residents the opportunity to engage in an activity that they enjoy and enriches their lives.”
Laura Mikulski had Ferndale’s first legal chicken coop back in 2012 after the city went through a lengthy process to craft an ordinance. Ferndale allows three chickens, and Mikulski opted for a trio of Buff Orpingtons.  In researching chicken ordinances from other communities, Mikulski found a passion that she carries on today with her website FerndaleChickens.com.
The site is a great resource for individuals who are considering having chickens, or for communities that are considering an ordinance.
FerndaleChickens.com also tracks ordinances in cities through Michigan. In Oakland County Auburn Hills, Clawson, Farmington, Ferndale, Hazel Park, Holly Township, Village of Holly, Lathrup Village, Madison Heights, Pontiac, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak, Southfield, and Troy have at least some mechanism that allows chickens. Each community has their own rules and limitations..  Cities that expressly prohibit chickens include Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, possibly Farmington (with unclear wording), Huntington Woods, Oak Park, and Rochester.  Note: This list is not exhaustive and if you know of others, please let us know.
It’s wonderful that overall sentiment toward backyard chicken keeping has changed from being seen as odd or potentially detrimental to the city, to being accepted and seen as a right in many communities. It’s 100% different than when we started discussing it in Ferndale,” Mikulski said.
For Mark Clementz, Jackson’s grandfathers, the fowl are not only a great source of eggs. They are a source of love.   “I got them for Jackson, so he’d have a reason to come over more,” Clementz said.  “He tells his mom he wants to come see his chickens.  And it’s great for him.  He gets to learn how to take care of them, how to be gentle.”
They went together to Tractor Supply Company and Jackson picked out the baby chicks that he wanted. “Once I got them, they were so cute and so soft,” he said.
At the time of the interview, the hens were still adolescents and had not yet started laying eggs, but the Clementz family was already accustomed to fresh laid local eggs because Mark would get them from a friend.  “They taste so much richer and better,” he said.  “Some people are so used to grocery store eggs they may not like it, it’s just got a stronger taste. But that’s because they have nutrients. They are so much better for you.”
While ordinances through the county vary, some common elements include construction requirements for the chicken coops, rat prevention requirements such as how to store feed or requiring a rat abatement in the coop design,  and sometimes a permitting process. Restrictions against roosters are common, as well as limits in quantity.
To learn more about backyard chickens, check out www.ferndalechickens.com.
 

 

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