Legalize chickens – 3 final tips April 4, 2014

Throughout March, we’ve been discussing ways to work toward getting chickens legalized in your communities. Last week, we took a brief break to share some amazing news with you, but this week we’re wrapping up our legalize chickens DIY series by discussing petitions. This is often the first thing people who contact us ask about with regard to legalizing chickens, but it probably shouldn’t be.

legalizing chickens for beautiful eggs

I half think you should first find out if you can send them some eggs so gorgeous it will blow their minds!

The problem is that for the most part, petitions are of limited use. They CAN be a powerful tool, of course… but the truth is that even if 80% of the people in your town signed a petition FOR legalizing chickens, that fact can matter very little to zoning boards, boards of health or homeowners’ associations. Those who don’t answer directly to the public may have little motivation to listen to the public’s desires through petitions, letter writing or email campaigns.

Public support, and petitions demonstrating that support, can be of more use if you’re dealing directly with elected officials. But even then, I think we can agree that the bare fact that there might be a majority (even an overwhelming majority) of voters who agree on an issue–and even when logic and reason is on your side–it is not guaranteed to sway your officials when they may have donors to please. Without my having to name specific examples, most people could probably name at least two issues over which there’s been a huge public outcry and support for change… but about which legislative bodies seem to have great difficulty making any progress.  It also helps to have actual supporters present, just as with letter writing campaigns it’s more effective to have people write about legalizing chickens in their own words. That shows they took time and effort to support the cause, rather than just signing their names to a petition or clicking an “email your representative” button online.

Legalizing chickens for delicious eggs

If it were me, I’d be swayed by seeing a store bought “free range” egg yolk like the one on the left compared to dark orange yolk of actual free range hens on the right!

Even knowing that tools like petitions are of limited use, don’t lose hope. Especially with small, local elections, there is not a huge likelihood that big money will be involved to oppose you.  In addition, there are public servants who genuinely want to do the right thing. Furthermore, keeping backyard chickens is one of those rare issues that appeals to a wide audience; it appeals to people on both sides of the aisle because it is an issue of property rights, support for local food, families, health and so on.

So here’s the main thing to remember if you have a popular petition in support of backyard chickens and you’re ready to present it: don’t expect your work to end there. Instead, in most cases, you’ll have to remain on top of the issue until rules get changed or measures get passed. And the best person to stay on top of the issue is the person who cares the most about it–YOU.

legalizing chickens for wonderful pets

After all, what do you want to see in your yard?

So, as YOU  begin this final phase, remember…

Legalizing chickens – 3 tips for convincing board members and officials

  1. Remain polite. After all, if you’re hostile, aggressive or act like a jerk, that’s no motivation for a board member or official to help you. You can stand your ground without expressing frustration or anger. Keep in mind that you’re trying to persuade this person.  Be firm about the facts, but being a brute when you present them will only weaken your position.
  2. Be persistent–without being nuts! Calling once or twice a week to ask about updates and progress on the issue may be good… but use common sense. After all, if the zoning board member you’re working with won’t have any more information about the legalizing chickens project until after the monthly meeting, calling six more times before the meeting happens just comes across as crazy. A little “henpecking” is good, but don’t go bonkers.
  3. Finally—and this is the thing most people forget—remember to express gratitude for the help you do receive. “Thank you for putting this issue on the agenda for the public forum. ” “Thanks so much for advocating for backyard chickens; your speech was great.” “We so appreciate the way you’ve helped us arrange meetings with the folks we need to reach on this issue.” Not only will this encourage continuing help—everyone likes to be appreciated—it will make the process more pleasant for you, too, when you stop to recognize and appreciate the help that is being directed your way. In fact, studies have shown that taking time to be grateful actually increases success with your personal goals, as well as increasing your determination. (Perhaps a good idea would be to keep a gratitude journal specifically geared toward your goal of getting chickens legalized in your area.)

Frankly, even if gratitude didn’t have those benefits—even if it wasn’t likely speed your success—do you want the lengthy process of legalizing chickens to be pleasant or unpleasant? If this takes 6 months or a year (or more!) of your life, do you want to feel gratitude or outrage during that period of time? I know what my answer is.

To those of you who have already gone through this process—or are currently going through it, or just thinking about it!—I invite you to share your experiences in the comments.

4 Comments
Robert Christie April 10th, 2014

All good advise for changing the laws in municipalities.
Here in Eldorado at Santa Fe, NM, we have to deal with a homeowners association board of directors that has been influenced by a small vocal minority of what I call “hen haters.” Despite the fact that the HOA covenants are ambiguous and do not specify what animals may be kept as “recognized pets,” this undue influence resulted in 7 of our members being sued by the HOA to get rid of their pet hens. We live on 1.5 to 3 acre lots in a rural residential area, yet these twisted suburban ‘purists’ fear a loss of property values, etc.

We are fighting them in court and trying to raise the funds to do so against the HOA big pockets! Please go to http://www.gofundme.com/save-our-pet-hens for more information and to support our cause.
I blog at TheHopefulRealist.com on this and other social issues.
Thank you so much.

Jennifer Obney April 15th, 2014

I am currently in a battle with my township. I’m in violation of their ordinance which says we must have 10 acres to have chickens. We have 19 chickens on 3/4 of an acre. Our birds are like pets and are very well taken care of. We have never had any complaints from neighbors! Now I’m being forced into court in a week for noncompliance. This comes after attending a township meeting requesting a change in the ordinance. They have not come to a decision yet, and are still taking me to court over it! Its a ridiculous and sad situation when our local authorities overstep their bounds attempting to take away our freedom to provide for our families. Thank you for this article, its reassuring to know that I’m doing the right things.

Lissa April 15th, 2014

Sympathies, Jennifer! We hope your township will change the regulations so they are more reasonable.

carey June 13th, 2014

Public hearing on the keeping of chickens on June 19 at 6 PM the Lakeville planning commission will hold a public hearing to receive comments on a proposed amendment to Lakeville’s zoning ordinance that will allow the keeping of chickens this notice was created June 5, 2014 so remember it’s going to be June 19 at 6 PM we need to go .. THIS IS LAKEVILLE MINNESOTA

Public hearing on the keeping of chickens on June 19 at 6 PM the Lakeville planning commission will hold a public hearing to receive comments on a proposed amendment to Lakeville’s zoning ordinance that will allow the keeping of chickens this notice was created June 5, 2014 so remember it’s going to be June 19 at 6 PM we need to go and speak up and tell the city of a Lakeville that chickens will not interfere with dogs and cats in the neighborhood.

This was in the Sun This Weeks newspaper on
February 26, 2014 ;
Mayor responds to calls for chickens
Lakeville is poised to legalize raising chickens in residential neighborhoods.

Mayor Matt Little said he has received numerous requests from citizens who want to raise chickens in their backyards, and most Lakeville City Council members indicated support for the idea at their Feb. 24 work session.

Beekeeping or raising goats in neighborhoods, also requests the city has received from residents, were ideas quickly dismissed by council members during the Feb. 24 work session considering urban farming options.

Little proposed the city establish an ordinance permitting residential homes the ability to keep a maximum of two hens in backyard pens.

Council Members Kerrin Swecker and Doug Anderson agreed with neighborhood chicken-keeping, giving provisional majority support for an idea that had been discussed but rejected by the council several times in the past few years.

City Planner Daryl Morey said some residents want chickens to teach children how to care for a productive animal, others are looking for ways to save on grocery bills.

The council considered various regulations other cities like Burnsville and Farmington have enacted that define how and where urban birds are kept.

Burnsville, Farmington and Eagan have standards for minimum coop and run design standards, and they also require permits and regular inspections by animal control officers, according to the city.

None of the cities allow beekeeping on property that is not zoned agricultural.

Staff will review options and return this spring with a proposed ordinance for consideration.

Although city staff reported none of the nine cities with chicken ordinances that were reviewed have had problems or complaints from neighbors, Council Members Colleen LaBeau and Bart Davis were opposed to the idea for Lakeville.

Davis said farm animals do not belong in urban areas; LaBeau said chickens could cause conflicts with dog and cat owners, and did not support Lakeville police devoting time to manage issues that may arise.

Little said the policy should be strict enough so neighbors do not infringe on each other’s ability to enjoy their property.

He also emphasized that city code needs to identify the only chickens that would be allowed would be hens.

“No roosters,” he said.

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