Town of Homer adopts local chicken law

The Homer Town Board at its meeting on Wednesday unanimously voted in favor of officially adopting a local law for the ownership of chickens and other fowl in residential zones.

Under specific conditions, the new local law allows landowners in residential zones to have a variety of chickens and other fowl, without going through the town’s planning board to request a special permit.

The conditions of the local law are as follows:

  • The poultry and eggs are for the personal use or consumption of the residents of that property only
  • No roosters unless the roosters are kept at least 250 feet from any neighboring residence
  • Keeping roosters less than 250 feet from neighboring residents requires an area variance obtained from the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals
  • The poultry is not allowed to roam free and is confined by an agricultural-type fence
  • Any accessory buildings containing poultry are kept at least 15 feet from any property line where such property is used for residential purposes
  • The New York State Health Department, and Agriculture and Market requirements are met, including proper removal of litter and carcasses.

 

According to the dialogue of the local law, the law will take effect immediately upon being filed to the New York State Department of State.

Town supervisor Fred Forbes previously noted that the law pertains to residents living in the residential zones, and residents in agricultural/non-residential zones are not affected.

Before the law was adopted, a public hearing was held. Deedee Dillingham, a Cortlandville resident, spoke against the adoption of the law.

 

Dillingham noted a set of five concerns she has if the law were to go into effect:

  1. Neglect and cruelty of the chickens
  2. Spreading diseases, including salmonella and the avian flu
  3. Continuous noise, mostly from roosters
  4. Odor, wet bedding, and food and waste management of the chickens
  5. Attraction to predators, including foxes, raccoons, coyotes, cats and more
  6. In terms of neglect and cruelty of the chickens, Dillingham’s concerns included improper shelter and fencing, abandonment, unsanitary conditions and lack of food.

    “People don’t have the right fencing, or the right door for the fence,” she said. “The chickens go right over the side of the fence.”

    Dillingham recalled rounding up a slew of loose chickens in the past, saying the chickens can be “hit by cars and cause accidents.”

    “There’s a whole array of problems with loose birds,” she said.

    Dillingham loves hearing roosters, but knows overall that residents don’t want to listen to the crowing.

    “Even if they’re 250 feet away, I think you’ll still be hearing the roosters,” she said.

    Despite the negatives of owning chickens, Dillingham said there are positives.

    “Chickens have strong, welcoming personalities, and form friendships with other chickens and the owners,” she added. “They can be nurturing, vigilant and empathetic with their babies and other chickens.”

    Forbes noted one positive to owning chickens is “they eat a tremendous amount of ticks, flies and other bugs.”

    Dillingham harped “there is so much more” to chickens “as individuals.”

    “Overall, they are someone and their lives deserve consideration,” she said.

    Dillingham questioned if code enforcement would repeatedly monitor residents who owned chickens, to make sure conditions “are in order.”

    Board member Kevin Williams, who put a majority of the local chicken law proposal together, said code enforcement would take action, if needed.

    “It’d be based more on reported conditions that are less than ideal,” he said.

    Dillingham reiterated that a majority of the owners “properly care for chickens,” but was worried about “the ones who aren’t.”

    When Williams conducted research and a survey with town residents in regards to owning chickens, he never came across owners with “poor conditions for the chickens, or chickens being treated poorly.”

    Board member Larry Jones added he “hasn’t seen or heard” any form of abuse or neglect of the chickens.

    “People can raise chickens the way they want to, but we always hope owners take care of chickens in a humane manner,” he said.