Friday, September 10, 2010

Shot Through the Heart

On August 18, we went to the Safety Committee of Council meeting, all dressed up nice, and with a 40 page packet of information that included three pages of signatures and five letters in support of changing the ordinance prohibiting livestock in Pickerington.

It didn't go well.

Here are the relevant meeting minutes:

1.         ROLL CALL.  Mrs. Hammond called the meeting to order at 7:43 P.M., with roll call as follows:  Mrs. Hammond, Mr. Barletta, and Mr. Blair were present.  No members were absent.  Others present were Bill Vance, Lynda Yartin, Commander Annetts, Ed Drobina, Chet Hopper, Greg Bachman, Susan Crotty, Michelle Richardson, Alexa Liebert, Carol Carter, John Vanduynhoven, Frank Sclafani, Jim Myers, Eric Richardson, Larry Stupke, Linda Stupke, Tracy Pieczynski, Angelique Taylor, and others.

2.         APPROVAL OF MINUTES OF July 21, 2010, Regular Meeting.  Mr. Blair moved to approve; Mr. Barletta seconded the motion.  Roll call was taken with Mr. Blair, Mr. Barletta, and Mrs. Hammond voting “Yea.”  Motion passed, 3-0.  


            A.        Jim Myers.  Mr. Myers stated he resides on Hereford Drive and he and Mr. Frank Sclafani were present this evening to discuss the Neighborhood Watch Group they have started in RaMar Acres and Pickerington Hills subdivisions.  Mr. Myers stated they have run across some signs they would like to post throughout the neighborhood to warn that neighbors are watching.  Mr. Myers stated they currently have two signs on Lockville Road that they would like to replace with larger signs. He stated he had discussed this with Mr. Drobina and it was suggested he come to this Committee to see if they can get signs posted throughout the neighborhood, at the entrances to the park, and at the entrances to the neighborhood.  Mr. Myers stated he understood they could not put this type of sign on speed limit signs, stop signs, street signs, etc., but they would have to be posted on their individual posts.  Mr. Myers stated he was requesting the City either put in posts and post the signs, or if the City could put the posts in he would be more than glad to install the signs.  Mr. Myers stated they were just trying to get the word out that the neighborhood was watching out to assist the police officers in Pickerington.  Mr. Vance stated he would go out with Mr. Drobina and investigate what they would like to accomplish and go from there.  He stated he felt the City would be receptive to working with the neighborhood in that regard. 

            B.         Carol Carter.  Mrs. Carter stated she would like to address the issue of the chickens in her neighborhood.  Mrs. Carter stated she does not object to farmers have chickens, but she does live inside the city limits and we do have an ordinance against keeping livestock.  She stated keeping livestock in the city does affect your neighbors, and most cities do not allow livestock on properties of less than five acres.  Mrs. Carter stated allowing these chickens, etc., would also affect the property value of the neighbors homes.  Mrs. Carter stated as a resident of the neighborhood she was not in favor of allowing chickens. 

            C.        Linda Stupka.  Mrs. Stupka stated she lives behind the family that has the chickens and it does affect her.  She stated it does affect the property values, the smell is terrible, and she would like to see this stopped. 

            D.        Michelle Richardson.  Mrs. Richardson stated she is the resident who owns the chickens and she is maintaining that they are pets, not livestock.  Mrs. Richardson stated Mrs. Stupka does live behind her, but the chickens do not smell. Mrs. Richardson distributed a packet of information on the benefits of raising chickens and stated chickens are educational, teach responsibility and self-sufficiency, and it is good for the environment.  Mrs. Richardson stated she maintains her chickens are pets because in Ohio the definition of livestock excludes a person who keeps a limited number of hens for pleasure, companionship, and a few eggs for household use.  Mrs. Richardson stated she has several letters from real estate personnel that state there is no difference in property values among cities and townships that allow pet hens and those that do not.  Mrs. Richardson stated she had also provided a petition for chicken approval and five letters in support from neighbors stating they are in support of the chickens. 

I had asked people to come to this meeting with us. Several people said that they would, but as the time drew near, they started dropping like flies. Sick kids, called into work, visiting relatives all kept people home. Only one of my neighbors who said he would show up, did. Thank you so much, John! I really appreciated you taking the time to attend the meeting.  

Gavin Blair, the council Member who said he would visit and see our aviary, never showed up to conduct his inspection.

Not surprisingly the result was this:

6.         CHAIRMAN: 

            A.        Review of request to keep fowl within the City.  Mr. Barletta stated as a resident, and representing the residents, he is not inclined to change the existing Code to allow keeping hens.    He stated for every one person that might do a good job of keeping it up, there will be someone else that will not.  Mr. Blair stated he is not a strong advocator of legislating for one person.  He stated in terms of changing the whole legislation to open it up to everyone might not be a positive situation and he could not see supporting a change to what we currently have.  Mrs. Hammond stated she would have to agree with Mr. Blair and Mr. Barletta, and she has also spoken with other council members and they also do not support making any changes to our Code for one individual.  Mrs. Hammond stated then that the ordinance stands as it is. 

As we got up to leave,  Katy asked, "Do we get to keep our chickens now?"

I said, "No."

All four kids started sobbing. As we walked out the door, the Buildings Director shut it behind us.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why Keep Backyard Chickens?

Chickens make great pets.
  • They are fun to watch, easily tamed and intelligent.
  • Hens are very quiet.They do not bark or yowl or screech.
  • Well-cared for chickens do not smell.

Chicken-keeping assists Emergency Preparedness.
  • FEMA recommends at least a three-day supply of food and water to be kept in case of emergency (1).
  • Eggs are rated a more efficient source of protein than cow's milk, fish, beef or soybeans (2).
  • Diversification of food production leaves it less vulnerable to interruption by natural or manmade disaster.

Chickens contribute to a self-sufficient and frugal lifestyle.
  • They are the ultimate in “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”
  • Chickens will eat most table scraps, weeds and lawn clippings.
  • They take those scraps and weeds and make eggs.

Backyard chickens lay fresh, healthy and delicious eggs.
  • Eggs from chickens fed a varied diet are richer in antioxidants such as vitamins E, C and beta-carotene.
  • These eggs also contain more of the good fats necessary for health – HDL and omega – 3 fatty acids – up to 10 times as much omega – 3 as eggs from battery chickens (3).
  • Eggs from backyard hens are antibiotic-free.

Raising chickens is educational.
  • Hatching chicks and watching them grow to adulthood illustrates the life-cycle of birds.
  • Keeping chickens teaches responsibility and pride in ownership of a well-kept, healthy and affectionate pet.
  • And it teaches first-hand respect for one's food and the animals that supply it.

Chickens are excellent bug eaters.
  • They eat mosquitos, flies, beetles and other harmful and pesky insects.
  • This reduces our backyard and garden pest populations.
  • Fewer bugs means less use of pesticides on ourselves and on our food.

Chickens are a natural extension of the garden.
  • Since they eat insect pests and weeds, chickens reduce the need for pesticides and herbicides.
  • Chicken manure is high in nitrogen and an excellent fertilizer.
  • It can be composted and used in the garden to grow healthy and delicious vegetables.

Keeping chickens puts you in control of your food.
  • Truly local food comes from your own backyard.
  • Owning a flock of chickens – no matter how small that flock may be - is literally owning the means of production.
  • When you keep chickens you know exactly how they have been treated, what food they have eaten and the quality of their health.

Backyard flocks help remind us of our cultural heritage.
  • The traditional American values of independence, self-reliance and resourcefulness are embodied in raising chickens.
  • Backyard flocks help preserve genetic diversity and endangered heritage poultry breeds.
  • Chicken-keeping evokes a simpler time when most people lived on family farms and even townsfolk kept chickens and gardens; family was important, and the sense of community between neighbors was strong.

    1. FEMA: Plan for Emergencies. Available online at
    2. COOP: Chicken Owners Online Pamphlet. A Dozen Reasons to Have Urban Chickens. Available online at
    3. Health Benefits of Grass-fed Products. Available online at

        What to Do, What to Do?!

        After we received the ordinance violation letter, I spoke to one of the Code Enforcement Officers and he told me to invite City Council to see our aviary and hens. That sounded good, but I wasn't sure how to go about doing that. So I stopped by City Hall and asked the Municipal Clerk. She told me to present my concerns to the Safety Committee of Council. I decided to do both.

        My daughter and I attended the next Safety Committee of Council meeting and gave a short presentation on the benefits of raising hens. I explained that we had been told that chicken-keeping was allowed in Pickerington, and that our hens were certainly not livestock to us, but pets. The Committee members seemed amenable to looking into our situation. One of them said he wanted to come out and see our aviary, and that he would make sure that chicken-keeping was on the agenda for the next Safety Committee meeting.

        I followed up my presentation with an email to City Council and the Mayor. This is what it said:

        Dear Mayor and Members of City Council:

        My name is Michelle R. My daughter and I spoke to the Safety Committee of Council regarding keeping pet chickens. I spoke to Chet Hopper Friday afternoon, and he informed me that there is no appeals process for an ordinance violation. If keeping pet chickens were a conditional use, we could apply for a permit. If keeping pet chickens were a zoning violation, we could apply for a variance. But there is no recourse for an ordinance violation.

        My husband and I would like to open the possibility of an ordinance amendment or change to allow a limited number of pet chickens to be kept in the City of Pickerington. Many communities allow hens to be kept as pets, including Columbus and Lancaster. Columbus has a permit process administered by the Columbus Department of Health, and Lancaster has chicken-keeping written into its code. 

        Mr. Hopper mentioned that the city has concerns with noise, odor, pests and disease. Hens are not noisy and do not require a rooster in order to produce eggs. (Roosters, we admit, are noisy, and we do apologize for not rehoming that one as promptly as we should.) There is very little odor with pet chickens. We keep pine shavings in the coop and mulch in the run. We scoop poop every other day. Chickens produce very little waste, and every other day seems to be sufficient. With little poop or moisture there are no flies, and we keep the hens' food in a sealed container in order to discourage mammalian pests. Chickens themselves are not generally vectors for human disease. Animals kept in clean conditions generally do not get sick.

        We believe Pickerington's City Council is made up of reasonable and thoughtful individuals who fully inform themselves on any and all issues that come before them. To this end we believe that City Council will accept our invitation to see with their own eyes the conditions in which our pet chickens are kept and the impact, if any, our chickens have on our neighborhood. We can think of no better way to combat preconceived notions of chicken-keeping than by making this small effort to see and understand the position and concerns of some of your constituents.

        Please contact us regarding this invitation. Or drop by. We are home most weekend days, and Michelle is home most week days. Thank you very much for your attention.


        Michelle R.

        This is the reply we received:


        Thank you for contacting us.  The issue of chickens will be on our next safety committee agenda.  I am copying safety committee chair Mrs. Hammond and Lynda Yartin to insure that it is.

        The process to amend an ordinance will begin there and then passed up to council to review.

        I will take you up on your offer to look at your chicken before next safety committee.  My hope will be next weekend to stop by.

        Thank you.

        Gavin Blair

        Sounds good, right?

        Wednesday, September 1, 2010

        Are Chickens Livestock or Pets?

        Are chickens livestock or pets? Both! Chickens may be considered pets or livestock depending upon the use to which the chickens are put. According to the dictionary, a pet is “a domesticated animal kept for pleasure rather than utility.” In contrast, livestock are “animals kept or raised for use or pleasure; especially: farm animals kept for use or profit” (1).
        In Ohio “livestock” is a statutory definition that confers special treatment upon the animal so labeled. Producers, exhibitors and breeders of animals designated livestock are eligible for livestock exhibition subsidies. In addition, the livestock designation also requires special permits for operators of concentrated animal feeding facilities and requires licensure of dealers and brokers (2). A producer, exhibitor, breeder, dealer or broker is a person who makes his living off of his animals. His animals are his stock in trade or “livestock” .
        This does not apply to a person who keeps a limited number of hens for pleasure, companionship and a few eggs for household use. Keeping chickens does not make a person a producer of eggs. According to the Ohio Revised Code, a “producer” of eggs is “any person engaged in the operation of egg production who maintains annually more than five hundred birds” (3). Backyard flocks are typically not that large.
        Chickens are not the only animals that can be either pets or livestock. Dogs are usually thought of as pets. However in Harris v. Rootstown, the Ohio Supreme Court held that “the breeding, raising and care of dogs constitutes animal husbandry.” The Ohio Supreme Court has defined “animal husbandry” as “the branch of agriculture which is concerned with farm animals, especially as regards breeding, judging, care and production” (4), and an “animal husbandman” is defined as one who is engaged in “the science of breeding, feeding, and tending domestic animals, esp. farm animals (5). The Ohio Revised Code includes “animal husbandry, including, but not limited to, the care and raising of livestock, equine, and fur bearing animals” in its definition of agriculture (6) . This means that dogs may be considered livestock or agricultural animals. The care of dogs at puppy-breeding operations closely parallels the care of chickens in egg-production facilities. For the operators of these types of commercial enterprises, the animals are livestock.
        A sure sign that an animal has achieved pet status is the number of products and services marketed to pet owners.These products and services are not utilitarian, but are concerned with the comfort of the pet animal and the enhancement of the human-animal bond. To this end – the comfort of the pet chicken – products are sold such as chicken saddles, chicken diapers, and chicken clothing (7). Chicken saddles protect a hen from an overly amorous rooster or dress a chicken up during molt. Chicken diapers allow pet chickens to have the run of the house. Dress-up clothes for chickens allow an owner to get his chicken into the spirit of the holidays as a chicken Santa or Uncle Sam There are even pet sitters that specialize in chicken sitting while the pets' owner is away (8).
        Livestock have numbers; pets have names. Livestock lives far from human dwellings; pets live in close proximity to their owners.Livestock does not receive regular, positive human interaction; pets do.Sick or injured livestock are typically culled; pets go to the veterinarian for medical care. Marketed products for livestock are concerned with physical care, feeding and housing. Marketed products for pets includes care, feeding and housing but adds toys, clothing and other products that address the emotional needs of both pets and owners. These products and services highlight the difference between livestock and pets and firmly put chickens into the pet category. 

        1. Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster. Available online at

        2. Fiscal Note & Local Impact Statement, 127th General Assembly of Ohio, Am.H.B. 352. Available online at

        3. ORC 925.01

        4. Hall, Peggy Kirk. Understanding the Agricultural Exemption from Ohio Zoning Law: Summary of Relevant Court Cases and Attorney General Opinions. Available online at

        5. ORC 519.01

        6. Hauser, Susan.Babysitters for Backyard Chickens. Available online at

        The Sticking Point

        618.18     LIVESTOCK PROHIBITED.
             (a)     Definitions.  As used in this section:
                  (1)     "Agricultural lands" means any tract of land in excess of five acres, which is in an area zoned for agriculture purposes by virtue of the Zoning Code of the Municipality.
                  (2)     "Livestock" includes, but is not limited to, cows, horses, swine or any other domesticated animal or fowl ordinarily found on farms, or raised or kept for the purpose of pleasure or recreation (business or pleasure), but shall exclude dogs, cats and birds commonly kept as pets and any other animal commonly kept or sold as pets.
                  (3)     "Person" means any natural person, partnership, joint venture or corporation organized and existing by virtue of the laws of the State of Ohio or of any other state.
             (b)     Prohibitions.  No person shall keep or suffer to remain upon any premises within the Municipality any livestock, except on agricultural lands.
             (c)     Penalty.  Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor

        Our Story

        A few years ago friends of ours got chickens. The chickens were so much fun to watch, and our kids loved playing with them. The eggs from these hens were a bonus - added value to fun, little pets. We decided that a few chickens would be a wonderful addition to our yard. We asked our friends if there were any rules that Pickerington imposed on chicken-keeping. We were told that there weren't, that the codes and ordinances said nothing at all about chickens. So it sounded like a go. We spent the winter reading up on coops and aviaries and chicken care, and when spring came, we drove out to Grove City and picked out ten cute, little fuzzballs from a Craigslist posting. Driving home my daughter held them on her lap.

        The chicks were a hit. The kids held them and played with them every day, and they soon became very tame. Little chicks grow very quickly, and our cute little chickies soon became birds of distinction. Their fuzz was replaced by true feathers, and they developed new and pretty colors. We expected that. What we didn't expect was that these chickens would each develop its own unique personality. And watching them hammer out their own social structure was fascinating. After dinner, we used to pull chairs out to the coop and just watch the chicks interact. Chicken TV. Educational and amusing.

        Eventually the chicks all earned names: Sumo, Chickenardo, Ranelle and Ranette, Night-night, Speckles, Sparky, Zoe, Rodeo and Rosie. Sumo turned out to be a boy. But he was gentle and sweet, easily handled, and rarely crowed. So we kept him. We checked with the neighbors first. All the folks we asked said they didn't mind. Our next door neighbors absolutely loved him and loved hearing his crow.

        Unfortunately the following spring, Sumo found his voice and started crowing all day long. We started looking to rehome him. It wasn't easy. We didn't want him to end up being dinner or a victim of cockfighting. We were picky about where he was going. Too picky. This past May the police came to let us know that someone complained about Sumo's crowing. We didn't want to continue upsetting our neighbors, so I posted Sumo's pic on Facebook. A friend of a friend saw him and was looking for a rooster and came and got him. Sumo moved about 50 miles away. We've visited him there, and he seems very happy.

        Problem solved, right? Wrong. I returned from out of town to find a letter explaining that we were in violation of a city ordinance prohibiting livestock.

        The ordinance reads in part:

                (2)     "Livestock" includes, but is not limited to, cows, horses, swine or any other domesticated animal or fowl ordinarily found on farms, or raised or kept for the purpose of pleasure or recreation (business or pleasure), but shall exclude dogs, cats and birds commonly kept as pets and any other animal commonly kept or sold as pets.
        We thought, "Hmmmm, livestock excludes 'dogs, cats and birds commonly kept as pets and any other animal commonly kept or sold as pets.' Our chickens are pets. We don't make a living off of them, so they aren't livestock, and chickens have been kept as pets for a long, long time. We just need to call them and explain that we don't have 'livestock'."
        So not true that.