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Resident wants to own chickens without variance



McGinnis
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McGinnis (click for larger version)
September 29, 2010 - It's a little known fact, but folks wishing to raise chickens in the Village of Oxford can do so, if they fork over a lot of cash and get permission from their government.

But village resident Sue McGinnis believes people should be allowed to keep chickens in their backyards without all that hassle and added expense.

"I think if they're going to allow it for one, they should change the ordinance and allow it for everybody," she said.

According to the village zoning ordinance, "the keeping, raising or breeding of animals, poultry or livestock, including farm animals and non-domestic animals" is prohibited.

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However, the ordinance goes on to state it "may be permitted by and under conditions of public safety, comfort, convenience and quiet use of property imposed by the Zoning Board of Appeals."

So, basically all a person needs to have farm-fresh eggs every morning is a variance from the ZBA.

But obtaining a variance isn't a cheap process. It costs $500 just to go before the ZBA and that doesn't include potential fees for the services of village consultants.

McGinnis believes the government should amend its zoning ordinance to permit people to raise chickens on their residential properties without having to wade through all the bureaucratic red tape.

"If they're willing to grant me a variance, then they would need to grant the next person a variance. So, why not just change the ordinance?" she said.

McGinnis plans to approach the village about amending the ordinance.

She's looking to raise some hens at her Pleasant St. home. She did it when she lived in Troy.

"I've always liked chickens and I like to garden, so to me it's just a natural extension of that," she said.

Urban chicken farming is becoming quite the popular pastime as more and more folks look for safer, cleaner alternatives to foods produced on factory farms. The practice is also big among "locavores," folks interested in eating food that's locally produced.

As of March 2010, the popular website www.backyardchickens.com reported it had more than 50,000 chicken owners adding about 7,000 new posts each day.

"There's a huge movement throughout the country," McGinnis said.

Around the country, cities such as Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Portland (Oregon) and Denver allow residents to raise chickens. In Michigan, the practice is allowed in communities such as Ann Arbor, Lansing, East Lansing, Grand Rapids, Troy and West Bloomfield.

According to McGinnis, raising chickens is a great way to have an "organic, wholesome, cruelty-free source of eggs."

"You know what's going into the chickens and you know what you're getting out of them. You know how they've been treated," she explained.

On average, three hens will lay two eggs per day, according to the eggsperts at www.backyardchickens.com.

No noisy roosters are needed because laying eggs is something hens do naturally when they reach the age of four to six months. A hen only needs a rooster in order to lay fertile eggs that can hatch.

Chickens can lay eggs into their teens, although they sometimes stop earlier.

But there's more to urban chicken farming than simply having fresher, more nutritional eggs.

It's a good way to reduce stress and lower blood pressure. "Tending chickens is a very relaxing thing to do," McGinnis said.

The practice also teaches kids "responsibility, discipline and animal husbandry."

Gardeners will like the fact that chicken manure makes for an excellent, all-natural fertilizer.

The big question is will the village council consider changing the ordinance or will officials chicken out? Stay tuned.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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