Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

City Council: Cluck Prevention

21. April 2008 • Juliew
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Monday, April 21 at 7:00 pm.
Ann Arbor City HallCity Council Agenda


  • Broadway Historic District
  • HUD housing and human services needs one-year action plan
  • Lots of chicken-related ordinances
  • Recommendation to approve 2009-2014 Capital Improvements Plan
  • Vacating of Boulevard Heights Alley
  • Yield to pedestrian in crosswalk ordinance

  1. The main Broadway Historic District passed. The small one, protecting only two small commercial buildings, failed, after its owner (who also owns and manages the Northside Grill) objected.

    The CIP plan was withdrawn.

    Most everything else passed without comment, except for the bundle of chicken ordinances. They failed after Steven Rapundalo succeeded in amending the main ordinance to give adjoining neighbors a veto, and then the measure failed on the main issue. Since this was the first reading, that means it will not come back unless someone on the prevailing side moves to reconsider.

    This measure also called forth some of the most remarkable oratory of the evening, with Chris Easthope calling for it (the chicken measure) to be placed on the ballot and Joan Lowenstein comparing its supporters to an earlier group who wanted to keep poisonous snakes.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Apr. 22 '08 - 07:33AM    #
  2. So, Vivienne, I suppose you will not have received as much communication from citizens as those who are currently sitting on Council, but as a candidate for Council in my ward, I figure it’s still a fair question: how would you have voted on the chicken ordinance and why?

       —HD    Apr. 22 '08 - 09:22AM    #
  3. I am personally favorable to the idea. After all, I run with Slow Food types and food security or sustainability is one of my campaign planks. I think we all have a right to try to obtain fresh locally grown food at a reasonable cost, and growing your own is the most direct way to achieve that.

    As an elected representative, I would have still been mulling it over somewhat. I didn’t have the advantage of the emails but do understand that opinion is divided, and that can’t be ignored. On the other hand, much was modeled after my former hometown of Madison, Wisconsin, so it must be good. I think the city attorney, Stephen Postema, had done a good job of trying to address most of the potential problems. Also, I didn’t buy the noise/filth objections. I think they are overblown and based on lack of information. (Did you know that at least one community in SE Michigan once passed laws against backyard composting because it might be unsightly and smelly and offend the neighbors?)

    So I would have voted for it on first reading and then waited for the public hearing to finally make up my mind. (And read the emails.)

    I’d have also been strongly tempted to try keeping them myself if my spouse were not one of the aginners.

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Apr. 22 '08 - 10:12AM    #
  4. How unfortunate about the chickens. I’m moving far, far away from MI soon, so I don’t have a dog in this hunt, but I was hoping that council members would educate themselves about the issue before complaining about supposed noise and filth. It’s not a joke.

    I encourage them to walk my neighborhood and check out the vast quantities of dog poop produced by perfectly legal animals. Some thoughtful dog owners even leave piles of it on the sidewalk. They could also listen to the fairly constant noise dogs produce throughout the ‘hood. I say all this as a dog owner.

    And I’m pretty sure all those cats I see running around on the OWS aren’t vacating their bowels in their litter boxes housed in period-appropriate early-20th-century homes.

    There are very real benefits to keeping chickens; it’s too bad that it appears some councilmembers don’t care enough to be informed.

    Oh well. Good luck Ann Arbor!

       —OWSider    Apr. 22 '08 - 03:33PM    #
  5. Council laid an egg on the chicken ordinance. A couple of Councilpeople misunderstood what they were voting on and mistakenly voted against the ordinance. The defeat will be reconsidered, and I think the ordinance will eventually pass.

    The smaller Broadway historic district ordinance didn’t fail; it was merely tabled. Mayor Hieftje said he wanted to find some way other than historic district status to protect the building in question.

       —David Cahill    Apr. 22 '08 - 04:38PM    #
  6. “food security or sustainability is one of my campaign planks.”

    The last version I saw, while better than nothing, had restrictions (e.g., “Keep no more than four (4) chickens”) that looked to me like they’d make it less than useful for the above.

    A vegetable garden, for example, can make a significant contribution to a family’s diet, with some left over for the neighbors. Could someone who’s more of a chicken expert than me cite sources on the likely egg production of a backyard 4-chicken flock? I didn’t get the impression it was likely to justify the project as a significant food source. (Though it could still be a fun project for the kids, I suppose.)

       —Bruce Fields    Apr. 22 '08 - 04:44PM    #
  7. Sorry, it was late and I was incorrect. The smaller Broadway historic district did indeed get tabled till the second meeting in May.

    I wondered about some of the votes on the chicken ordinance but I’m not predicting what will happen next (having no information).

       —Vivienne Armentrout    Apr. 22 '08 - 05:07PM    #
  8. Bruce Fields asked: “Could someone who’s more of a chicken expert than me cite sources on the likely egg production of a backyard 4-chicken flock?”

    From a recent A2 News piece:

    Young hens will typically start laying eggs at 18 to 20 weeks, Zalucha said, depending on breed. A good layer may produce an egg a day. “Figure an average of every other day, to account for the dark part of year and the molt,” she said. Hens don’t produce eggs in molting season.”

    At Council last night someone pointed out that they don’t lay their whole lives. Trying to recall off the top of my head, I think egg-laying only goes to age four years or so. And there’s tapering off. But I think you have to factor in the chicken meat after they stop laying as a potential contribution to diet. But per proposed ordinance, the slaughter could not occur in the backyard.

       —HD    Apr. 22 '08 - 05:12PM    #
  9. David Cahill wrote: “A couple of Councilpeople misunderstood what they were voting on and mistakenly voted against the ordinance.”

    Well Easthope was uncharacteristically off point in his remarks about the Municipal Center during the chicken deliberations, but holy crap, surely no one honestly thought they were voting on that?

    The A2 News account has it that Anglin intentionally voted a strategic No, counter to his actual view, in order to be able to bring it back for reconsideration. I think it’s fair to say that Hieftje and Suarez—who voted after Anglin in the roll call—weren’t as clear about their voting intentions during deliberations as Rapundalo and Lowenstein were. So perhaps that accounts for the odd vote.

       —HD    Apr. 22 '08 - 05:30PM    #
  10. In the chickens’ defense, I’ve had neighbors with chickens and it was never a problem. They made a lot less noise than some of my neighbors’ dogs.

    Also, I never felt nervous walking past the hens. I’ve never seen off-leash hens attack other hens in Eberwhite. I’ve never had hen owners leave hen poop in my yard, though they would sometimes share their eggs (they got more eggs than their family could handle). And they didn’t hunt songbirds like the neighborhood cats. And the smell was never a problem (unlike when a different neighbor decided to raise a hog).

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for people having dogs and cats. I’m also all for people having chickens.

    After the YMCA banned breastfeeding in the pool area, the La Leche League organized a nurse-in. Maybe urban chicken proponents should organize a lay-in.

       —Chuck Warpehoski    Apr. 22 '08 - 08:45PM    #
  11. There was a good discussion of backyard chickens on Mark Maynard’s blog this week:

    I agree with Chuck, I just don’t know what the problem is with chickens. They are generally nicer and quieter neighbors than dogs, cats, many undergrads, some homeowners, the University, restaurants, and so on. I was walking to work today and all I could hear was the raucous noise of hundreds of birds, some of them not that melodic. I love it in the spring when the birds come back and start singing, but it is loud. In the winter we have the crows. I keep birdfood on our porch and feed the birds and squirrels and I’m sure skunks, ‘possums, and raccoons at night. I walk by houses with rabbit hutches outside, dogs outside, and cats roaming. I have neighbors with leaf blowers which are incredibly loud and bad for my health. Anyone can have a compost pile, or spread fertilizer, or put chemicals on their lawns. Why chickens are considered such a problem is beyond me. I think for many people it is more of an image thing rather than a specific noise/smell/vermin/health protest. They think it is a slippery slope and they don’t want to live somewhere with cars up on blocks, couches on porches, and chickens running in and out. I think that is changing and people now are starting to look at chickens as a bit of a status symbol, kind of like a Prius. Within a few years, all the cool kids are gonna have them.

    Interesting to see how these sorts of societal norms change. My father raised Rhode Island Red chickens as part of his Victory Garden in WWII (they helped keep the bugs down, plus gave eggs and meat). His house was in a downtown area similar to the Old West Side. As the Wikipedia article on Victory Gardens states: In addition to indirectly aiding the war effort these gardens were also considered a civil “morale booster” in that gardeners could feel empowered by their contribution of labor and rewarded by the produce grown. Making victory gardens became a part of daily life on the home front. It is ironic that if I tried to duplicate my father’s Victory Garden and help our society, it would be illegal, and apparently considered by many residents as a dangerous intrusion and violation of their rights.

       —Juliew    Apr. 22 '08 - 11:05PM    #