Thursday, September 2, 2010

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?

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