Saturday, March 29, 2008

My Introduction

Two years ago the Boston Globe published an article about raising chickens in an urban setting. There were pictures of mail-order coops, happy poultry owners and their chickens, and beautiful eggs. I was hooked.. but some background.

My oldest step-daughter, Sharon, raises chickens in upstate New York on a 27 acre farm where she has a huge vegetable garden, has run a successful CSA, and with her husband Eric, has 4 wonderful boys under 8. It's a busy life and they are working hard at sustainable living. Unlike Sharon, her mother, Naomi,and I live in Beverly, MA, a city of 35,000 20 miles north of Boston, where we raised Sharon and her sisters. We have a lovely 100 year old house in downtown Beverly, in the Prospect Hill section, where we can walk downtown or to the beach in a matter of minutes. Hardly a farm..

We raise vegetables at the local community garden (our yard is too shady) and enjoy the simple pleasures of watching the world go by on our front porch. Chickens were never in the picture...

But as time went on and I spent more time at Sharon's and sampled the delight of free range eggs I began to think it might be fun to have a few chickens of our own. Great eggs, animals that would eat the bugs in the yard, and all that free compost! A no-brainer! Except that Naomi was dead set against it. I showed her the Boston Globe article, http://www.boston.com/news/world/articles/2006/02/12/poultry_owners_find_an_urban_coop/ and the answer was a firm NO.

I'll spare you the details but let's say it took me a full year to convince her that getting chickens was a good idea. In the end, she agreed to give it a try, mostly because she wanted me to be happy... She hasn't regret her decision...

So how did we make this happen in a city where chickens aren't exactly running around in most yards? The first stop was to pick Sharon's brain and search the internet for what others were doing. I soon found out that some municipalities have no rules on poultry and some have definite regulations. I needed to see what regulations Beverly had so headed off to City Hall in January 2007. I was immediately sent to the Board of Health where they gave me an application and told me that with $25, a plot plan, and the blessing of the Animal Control Officer m application would be presented to the Board of Health who would make a final decision.

I was quite discouraged when I met with the Animal Control Officer, especially when he learned I lived 'downtown' and not in one of the more suburban neighborhoods. An 8000 sq. ft. lot is not that big and he was concerned there wouldn't be enough space for the coop. He told me that the abutters had to approve of me getting chickens and that would go a long way in getting me approved.

So, on Super Bowl Sunday, 2007, I visited al my abutters, and presented my case. I also gave them a letter outlilning my plan with some 'facts and figures' about home poultry raising. For the neighbors I knew really well I baked some chicken shaped cookies (hey, who said I had to play fair!) to make my case. Without an exception everybody was excited and encouraged my plan.

With this vote of approval and renewed hope, I had the Animal Control Officer, Jim Lindley, visit my house on a cold Februrary day. I presented my plan, showed him my plans for the coop, and told him all my neighbors supported the chickens. With that information he gave me the clearances for the coop placement, discussed waste disposal (I was composting), and told me that the Board would make the fnal decision at my March hearing. But having abutter approval was really key and that my application looked good.

And that is exactly what happened.. at the March hearing I presented my case and reviewed my plan. I was asked a few questions and a week later I received my certificate to keep 4 chickens. Six weeks later the chicks arrived and my life hasn't been the same since! Next time I'll talk about 'the girls'...

13 comments:

LisaZ said...

Hey! Found your blog from Sharon's post today. Good luck with the chickens! I want some too, really bad. Unfortunately my small city in Central MN has banned them so I either have to get the ordinance changed (and could easily round up a group of people who also want to do this) or go behind their backs. Being a fairly well known, active community member however I'm not sure if I should go behind the city's back and break an ordinance when I support so many others (although, truth be told, I'm already disobeying the ordinance that perennials can't be planted in my boulevards...but so are many of my neighbors.) Ack! I hate bureaucracy and would rather just get the dang chickens!

Good for you getting through your city's process. I'll look forward to reading more about your chicken adventures. Do post a picture of the coop, too. I want to see some ideas for my future coop...

Louise Z said...

Great job both with the chickens and raising Sharon. I've added you to my blog reading list....Hugs

Andrew said...

I'm so jealous. My city is firmly against chickens.

deb said...

I can hardly wait to read more of your chicken adventures!!

Phil Plasma said...

Sharon pointed me here also, I've been thinking about going the same way with backyard chickens, but my wife is deadset against it. I guess I'll have to learn to lobby like you had to.

Destabee of the Dunes said...

I also made my way here by way of Sharon's blog. I look forward to reading about your chicken adventures. Hopefully soon I'll be able to use the information gleaned from your posts in raising my own chickens.

Mandarina said...

Congrats from Sydney, Australia, city of 4 million people, in which my local council, for sustainability reasons, has just announced a workshop on "chooks in backyards" which of course I've signed up for. My four-year-old wants a dog. My husband would prefer a convertible. My boss, probably, would prefer that I get in on time without soil, feed, feathers or vegemite fingerprints on my suit. I'm not sure what my 90year-old-landlady who lives in the bottom of the garden will want - peace and quiet probably

I'll be reading with interest. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

steve said...

dSusie, Hi my name is Steve. I live in Anderson Ca. Yes, I too am an Avid Sharon reader, dang that girl is smart and she can write. Anyway a very similar story happened to me that happened to Sharon. A friend, Ann at work showed interest in my chickens, (oh I have had up to over one hundred, and live in a town where you can only have ten hens). Anyway, I got an order of day old pullets and when they arrived Ann, Kim and their daughter all came over to pick two out, (they went home with four). One in particular, we will call her Nancy for privacy reasons, turned out one fine day to start crowing, crap amighty, all the Marans where supposed to be pullets, any how, Ann brought Nancy back to me and replaced her er him with a new Nancy. LOL, so funny to read Sharons post today and read a similar story, and yes the Chicken Pax is contagious I know, I am after all a Registered Nurse. Oh by the way right behind me right now in an incubator I heard for the first time "peeps", yes another successful hatch for Anderson's chicken Outlaw Steve. Have a great day.

Bess said...

Hi Sue! I also found your blog through Sharon -- they're probably ordering chickens for us this year (unless I find someplace I can get them locally). I'd love to pick your brain about coops and everything else we need to know about raising chickens in suburbia. Hope you're all well and hope to see or talk to you soon!

jsb said...

Yeah! Thanks for the inspiration.

Christine Lydon said...

Hi from England,
We got our first chickens a few weeks ago, and last week got our first eggs! It was so exciting. We have three white ones just like in your picture and two slightly smaller black ones. They live in a movable 'ark' coop which gets shifted around the garden every few days. It doesn't do the lawn any harm - it soon recovers from the nibbling and scratching. I'd like to let them loose but they would eat the vegetables and flowers, and might escape. When we first got them and were putting them in the coop one got over the fence, and took ages to get back.
Good luck

Paula Hewitt said...

we have 6 chooks - had them for about 9 months - couldnt be happier - much easier to raise than kids (we have three of them)! I wish we'd done it years ago.

Bill said...

hey,
love the girls, they look so beautiful in these photos.
I loved seeing them yesterday!
Sorry to hear about the hawk. and wild turkey trying to get at them. I'll see u at 5:00 4/17/08
-darcy from beverly