Cape Charles Chickens Leave Home to Roost
By DORIE SOUTHERN
Cape Charles Wave
February 17, 2014
Chickens that resided at two Cape Charles residences in the Historic District have left town. One little flock of three left last summer when their owners sold their property. The other flock of six has moved to Eastville while their owner awaits a decision on whether backyard chickens will be allowed in town.
The presence of chickens in town and the need for an ordinance regarding them has sparked controversy between friends and neighbors. Town Council has tasked the Planning Commission with providing a draft ordinance about backyard chicken keeping. This month Commission members discussed the pros and cons of chicken keeping in town but did not finalize a draft ordinance. The discussion will continue next month.
As has been reported in the Wave, numerous municipalities allow small flocks of chickens in residential neighborhoods. Roosters are rarely allowed due to their natural tendency to crow in the morning.
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Town Planner Rob Testerman suggested the following critical questions to be addressed by the ordinance:
• What type of chicken would be permitted?
• Where would they be allowed?
• How many would be allowed?
• What are appropriate setbacks and structure standards?
• How will they be permitted and who is responsible for enforcement?
Many prospective chicken keepers want a flock of their own so that they do not have to purchase eggs from inhumane operations where the birds do not have the opportunity do any of the things that a chicken would naturally do like explore their surroundings, scratch in the dirt, and take dust baths. Chickens are by nature gregarious and social birds. They do not fly well, making them easily domesticated.
Karen Davis of Machipongo, founder of United Poultry Concerns, an organization promoting the compassionate and respectful treatment of domestic fowl, tells the story of egg laying chickens in battery cages that may be read at http://www.upc-online.org/thinking/lifeofhen.htm.
When developing an ordinance the needs and desires of people come first, but it is the chickens that are the recipients of the standards devised. A coalition of animal sanctuaries has crafted a policy statement on urban chicken-keeping for municipalities to consider when drafting a backyard chicken ordinance. The coalition urges community members to provide this policy statement to decision-makers and the community. It is available here and on the United Poultry Concerns website.