In the ongoing discussion about the merits of urban backyard chicken-keeping, we need only look to Ann Arbor for an example of how it’s done successfully.
Last week, Ann Arbor made its existing backyard chicken ordinance less strict — something that’s pretty much unheard-of where modern lawmaking is concerned. The most recent changes are actually favorable to owners of pet chickens.
Ann Arbor residents are now allowed to keep up to six hens, rather than four as was previously allowed (but still no roosters), and the controversial requirement for getting one’s neighbors’ permission to keep chickens has been relaxed. Ann Arbor’s ordinance went into effect in January 2009, so they’ve had six years now to figure out the specifics, based on what works in actual practice.
Common sense says that the most recent changes would not have been approved if city chickens were creating huge problems. In reality, they’re not creating problems at all.
When I contacted the Ann Arbor city clerk’s office to confirm this, I learned that not one chicken permit has ever been revoked for violations. In addition, I was told that “there are very few complaints or issues with regard to keeping backyard chickens.”
Common sense says that a similar law, enacted in Tecumseh, would have similar results.
However, Tecumseh chicken advocates recently asked for a similar ordinance and were told no — not once but twice. At the same time, in what can only be called a reactionary and punitive move, Council revised our existing animal law to make it more restrictive, and added stronger consequences for violations.
Possession of non-approved animals is now a misdemeanor in Tecumseh.
If that’s what you get for asking permission in this town, it’s clear why some people might skip that step.
Furthermore, it’s also clear that some Council members did not do any research whatsoever on the issue of allowing backyard chickens, based on their own on-the-record comments. In other words, they voted no without ever examining the issue objectively — and that’s disturbing for reasons that have nothing to do with pet poultry.
As others have said: If I can’t trust our elected officials to responsibly research a minor issue like backyard chickens, how can I trust them with major issues, like how my tax dollars are spent?
While our Council remains obstinately stuck in the past, attempting to preserve the status quo at all costs, it’s losing the respect of a large segment of Tecumseh’s population — and not just those who want to keep chickens. Many residents are now seeing some of our elected officials in a whole new light — and it’s a distinctly unflattering one.
Common sense says that residents will remember this, and vote accordingly, come November.