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Pauline Panagiotou...
user 12164827
Katonah, NY
Post #: 7
Hi fellow gardeners,
I wanted to broach a topic very briefly since it's seems to be high on many people's radar these days, especially mine.
I have been keeping four hens in my 1/3 acre back yard since beginning of May.
I wanted chickens for multiple reasons: great at cleaning up bugs, slugs, grubs and ticks; great at making natural fertilizer for my gardens; great a making compost out of kitchen scraps especially left over meat that is really hard to compost; and great at laying eggs. Back yard chicken eggs have a higher content of Omega 3 and minerals than store bought eggs, an exponentially lower risk of Salmonella (sure love licking that cookie batter again), and are really much tastier. And then there is the spiritual side that these chickens are being given a good and happy life, being loved and treated humanely. So many good things to teach my three children and visitors. And neighbors.

This is my first attempt at keeping chickens and it's been a blast. The four girls are hysterical, sweet, scrappy little gals and in return for my love and protection they have been giving me an egg or two a day.
I moved to Katonah seven years ago after living in Bedford since 1995. It was a no brainer to move into the village, great people, great schools, great history and backyard chickens were legal. Or so I thought until my new next door neighbor from the city suspected that the local rats were being attracted by my chicken feed which was stored in a rodent proof, galvanized can so rodents couldn't chew through it. A couple years back I had to buy a galvanized garbage can because of rodents chewing through the plastic base. I only use plastic cans for recyclables now. There have always been rats around. Nothing serious, but you know they're out there. Apparently chickens are vicious rat killers and have been known to eat young rats! Too bad I didn't get the chickens sooner!

Anyway, he reported me to the authorities, upon which I discovered that I was not in a chicken zoned part of the neighborhood. Astonishingly, across the street it was fine to have chickens, because it fell into the 1/2 acre zone, but not where I was in a 1/4 acre zone. So, the folks across the street with a postage stamp yard could have chickens, but I, with my 1/3 acre could not... Arbitrary Codes? Ummm, yes. In point of fact, NYC does not restrict people from keeping chickens. People in NYC keep chickens in backyards, on rooftops and even in their apartments! There are some really tiny breeds of chickens that lay adorably small eggs.

It has saddened me to no end that I will most likely have to return my four feathered friends to their pappa, Peter Zander, and then let my expensive chicken tractor sit empty in my yard until the Bedford Planning Board decides to change the code so that it is not so arbitrary and restrictive. Were I to keep my girls beyond the April 3rd variance hearing that I've asked for to buy me some time, I would be fined $250 a day! You don't even get parking tickets that steep! My 15 year old and I are really going to miss those sweet girls and their multi colored blue and brown eggs.
Here's the irony...
The irony is that the town of Bedford in collaboration with Bedford 2020 devised a Climate Action Plan in 2009 and launched it in 2010 to rave reviews. On page 77 it encourages backyard food production and educating homeowners on how to do that so that they can reduce their carbon footprints. Something I try to do everyday on my 1/3 acreage.
Bedford Climate Action Plan
Our terrific and sustainably focused supervisor, Lee V.A. Roberts heartily endorsed the document and I applaud that decision. However, my question to her and the Planning board and the Conservation board was this: How can people be encouraged on the one hand to develop sustainable, low carbon lifestyles and on the other hand be threatened with hefty fines for doing so?
It's a conundrum that the town leadership needs to reflect on and needs our help in motivating them to make a change in the code so that not only the Martha Stewarts of Bedford can keep chickens, but also the folks whose ancestors rolled the town to its current location on giant tree limbs. I've asked local folks to write to the town pointing out these facts.
Check your local chicken codes and write to your towns, to your local papers and wake up our leaders and our neighbors to the reality that growing our own food and raising our own chickens is healthier, better, happier for everyone. This is a win win situation, if there ever was one. There really is no down side to keeping backyard chickens. Except for when neighbors complain. ;)

To me it's about quality of life issues. I paid $12,000 in real estate taxes last year, I paid for my own sanitation, I paid for my own septic, and I paid for town water. Not quite sure what town services I'm getting in return for that hefty tax bill. And they want to harras me over four hens...

Thanks for letting me vent.
Laura W
user 11261454
Ossining, NY
Post #: 26
This is tragic. Does your neighbor understand that you are protecting him and his family from Lyme's disease with your hens? That your hens are reducing the slug population, the stink bug population, and more? One of the best arguments for hens in this part of the country is prevention of Lyme's disease. I wish you luck in getting your girls back. And I wish a pox on your neighbor. In the mean time, I am writing letters and doing what I can to raise awareness for chickens and the importance of them in our ecosystem.
Pauline Panagiotou...
user 12164827
Katonah, NY
Post #: 8
Thanks Laura!
I agree that education is key! The lack thereof is prevalent. I've had adult (above 40!) women ask me how a chicken can lay an egg if there is no rooster... (facepalm).
Someone asked if the eggs my hens lay are safe to eat. Not a really terrible question, but significant in that Salmonella is a real risk in store bought eggs and HARDLY a risk in back yard chicken eggs. So, yes, these eggs are FAR safer, and more delicious than any store bought egg, even organic...
Bedford came out with a Climate Action Plan in 2010 that encourages backyard food production and educating the public to help them do that. The hypocrisy and failure of this plan at this point is becoming evident when on the one hand they encourage homeowners to produce food, but then plan on fining them $250 a day for producing food...
They need to get their priorities straight...
We need to keep their feet to the fire.
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