I’m on the city council of a city that has an anti-chicken ordinance on the books. I’ve been following Tecumseh’s backyard chicken debate on the internet.
My daughter started pestering me about backyard chickens a while back and my first answer to her was no! There is an ordinance against it! But my daughter is on the relentless side and after about three months of saying no, I got to thinking that my job on the council is to listen to the taxpayers before jumping to decisions.
After this revelation, I took it to the mayor and the rest of the council and you will never guess what their answers were: “No way, there are ordinances to keep that from happening!” It would take a vote of the majority of council to pursue having a chicken ordinance, but the answer at that point was no. Even so, I figured I would do a little research so I could tell my daughter all the reasons why we should not have chickens within the city limits. So I started researching it on the internet and made a few calls. I found out there are a lot of communities that have passed chicken ordinances. It turns out that once chickens were implemented and “under tight control” — like no roosters being allowed — it seems like these cities were pleased with the outcome.
My first call was to the Michigan Municipal League (MML), the organization that helped launch Tecumseh Brewing Company using crowd funding. The MML is in existence to support all the municipalities throughout the state and is full of knowledge on topics ranging from crowd funding to open meetings laws. During a phone call to them, I found out they support backyard chickens. It’s referred to as urban farming or urban homesteading and is an up-and-coming thing around Michigan and throughout the entire country. The MML is 100 percent behind it. Check out their website for yourself; even though I tried hard, I could not find anything against chickens, just ways to implement an ordinance and some of the do’s and don’ts.
To further my attempt to find a reason to say no to chickens, I dug into some of the cities that have gone through this same issue. Ferndale, Mich. was one of them. In speaking with their city manager, I learned that there was a battle to get the ordinance implemented in 2012, but since that time there has been not one problem whatsoever and now the city is good with it.
I also talked to the zoning administrator of Traverse City, Mich., which has allowed chickens since 2009. As soon as I said, “I understand you have chickens up there,” his reply was, “You bet we do and we love them.” I asked him if having chickens as neighbors had a bad effect on property values. His reply was that it is just the opposite. He explained that young people seem to be the ones pushing the urban chickens, and this in turn is helping to push the housing market and is drawing people to the city. Of course, there are many other things Traverse City does to attract new residents, but this shows that the city government is progressive and is willing to take a chance and listen to new ideas.
By now I was convinced that this was something to present to our city council again. It turns out that our mayor also did some research into chickens and was finding out the same things I was.
Eventually, a vote was taken after much discussion and it passed 3 to 2 to allow our residents to keep a limited number of chickens (females only) under strict ordinance control. It wasn’t a slam-dunk, though; some people changed their minds based on the research and some didn’t.
To make a long story short, I changed my tune about backyard chickens after doing some research. I have been on both sides of the fence on this issue, but honestly I have not heard one problem from the many city officials and others that I checked with. Please don’t take my word for it, though; Google “urban chickens” and check for yourself or contact the MSU Extension office or the MML. You will find that backyard chickens have many benefits and very few drawbacks, and hundreds of cities all over the country have legalized them without any problems at all.
Please note: This letter is in no way an attempt to sway voters from one candidate to the other, it is just an attempt to show the process that was gone through in my situation.
I encourage Tecumseh residents to say yes to chickens on November 3.
Harbor Beach, Mich.