Let Stonington chickens have a home to roost

In early April, I gave presentations at three sections of an Environmental Science class at Stonington High School. The students were studying the biology and history of Gallus domesticus, or as we call them, chickens.

The teacher asked me to talk about a new zoning ordinance, proposed by CLUC*K (Chicken Lovers Urge Change), which will be discussed during a town Planning and Zoning Commission public hearing 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Mystic Middle School.

I explained the basics of the proposal: home-based flocks allowed on all residentially zoned lots, up to six hens (or two hens per household member), no roosters on lots under three acres, coops and hen yards designed for the good of the hens.

Built into the ordinance was a statement of purpose: to preserve the quality of life in the neighborhood; to support a sustainable local food system; to provide affordable and nutritious food from fresh eggs. In addition, hens would provide rich fertilizer, chemical free pest-control (especially ticks), and animal companionship.

I agreed to speak to the students on one condition - that they write letters expressing either support or non-support of CLUC*K's proposal along with their reasons.

They submitted 48 letters. Forty-one were in favor; seven were not.

What follows is a sampling of students' opinions: I'll begin with the naysayers:

"Chickens are disgusting animals that poop everywhere."

"Dogs will be barking at chickens so that someone will eventually make it a big deal."

"Chickens make loud noises very early in the morning."

Being science students, many objected to current regulations that classify chickens as "grazing animals," that declare chickens to be unsuitable to co-habit with humans, that limit flock size to two animals, and that restrict even these two birds to lots three acres or larger.

"The current definition of chicken (as grazing animals) is biologically and historically incorrect. Chickens do not graze ... chickens have lived along side of humans for thousands of years."

"Chickens are by definition fowl that consume grains, vegetables, and insects."

"Chickens are biologically classified as browsers, not grazers, and should not have to be kept by grazing animal standards."

"I laughed at the two chickens on three acre requirement. That's the equivalent of two people living in a house the size of Stonington High School.

These are reasons students gave in favor of chickens:

"Keeping chickens chickens could be beneficial for a family both financially and nutritiously."

"Keeping hens supports a local and sustainable food source."

"Chickens raised by responsible owners are much healthier and happier than factory chickens."

"Keeping chickens is a great educational purpose."

"They aren't big and they aren't difficult to raise."

"It's cool to have animals in the back yard."

"They aren't big and they aren't difficult to raise."

"Current restrictions are absurd and most definitely should be reviewed."

"I feel it's only logical that chickens should be legal."

"We have lived along side of chickens for thousand of years, I see no reason to disown chickens now."

"I feel strongly that, if wanted, Stonington residents should have the choice of keeping chickens at their residences."

"... be more flexible toward chickens."

"Please take my opinion and that of others into consideration when thinking about Stonington's zoning regulations."

I urge people to attend Tuesday's hearing and support home-based flocks. See you there!

The writer, who runs a flower farm in Pawcatuck, is a founding member of CLUC*K and helped create a garden program at Stonington High School.


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