Weekly Feature

2018-03-07 / Front Page

Village may allow residents to raise chickens

by HOLLY N. LIPKA Reporter

Kimberly Fedkiw stands outside her chicken coop after feeding her chickens their afternoon snack. 
Photo by Holly Lipka Kimberly Fedkiw stands outside her chicken coop after feeding her chickens their afternoon snack. Photo by Holly Lipka Kimberly Fedkiw steps outside her Amherst home holding an afternoon snack of dried black soldier fly larvae. Don’t worry, the snack isn’t for her. It’s for her five backyard chickens: Ginger, Sage, Hazel, Beatrix and Ms. Ruby.

She reaches the door to her 12- by 4-foot chicken coop and greets her chickens.

“Hey girls!”

The golden brown hens huddle at the door, bobbing their heads and anxiously clucking for their snack. She unlatches the lock, opens the door and pours the larvae into a feeding bowl. The chickens scramble for the treat and gobble up as much as they can. Before closing the door, Fedkiw smiles and pets each chicken gently.

She then walks around the coop to the nesting boxes and pulls out two eggs, a brown egg and a light green egg.

“I usually get two to four eggs a day,” she said. “When I’m invited places, I don’t bring a bottle of wine, I bring eggs.”

For two years, Fedkiw has quietly raised chickens in her backyard through a special use permit with the Town of Amherst. While chickens may be a nontraditional choice, they’re practical pets. After all, how many pets reward their owners daily with fresh, vitamin-packed eggs?

Fresh eggs are one of the many benefits of maintaining a flock, and Fedkiw said raising her chickens “is a joy.” Unfortunately, if residents of Williamsville want to maintain a flock of their own and bask in the joy, they are not allowed under village code. At least not yet.

The Village of Williamsville prohibits residents from harboring, breeding or maintaining any chickens. However, when a village resident brought the code to the board’s attention at last week’s work session in hopes of raising her own chickens, the board agreed to consider eliminating or modifying the code.

“A good place to start is to look at what Amherst did and see if it makes sense for the village,” said Village Attorney Charles Grieco. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

In Amherst, residents can request a temporary use permit with the Zoning Board of Appeals to raise up to six hens in their backyards. Douglas Gesel, a town supervising code enforcement officer, said this special use permit can be in effect a maximum of two years, but in most cases, the ZBA grants a permit for one year.

“They will extend it to two years on the renewal if there have been no issues,” said Gesel.

Around 20 permits have been issued since the board allowed the ZBA to oversee these requests in 2013, and as of this year, there are four active permits.

To be granted a permit, residents must live in a single family detached home and place their chicken coops at least 15 feet from any property line. Chickens must be kept in a coop or chicken run at all times. Roosters are not allowed.

The ZBA also solicits input from property owners within 100 feet of the applicant’s property to evaluate any concerns.

During the work session, village officials discussed their concerns, including the noise level of chickens, their attraction of rodents and possible neighbor complaints.

Since Fedkiw began raising chickens, she said she hasn’t received any opposition from her neighbors. She makes sure to store chicken feed inside the house to keep the rodents away and said compared to other pets, chickens aren’t very loud.

“They’ll bawk a little bit if they’re laying, or they’ll make little noises when I come out, but they’re not like roosters,” said Fedkiw.

Gesel said town code enforcement officers will check a resident’s coop if any complaints are filed. They also check the site when permits are first granted, to make sure the resident followed protocol. If a resident is found not complying with the code, the individual will be given an official notice to remove the chickens.

“Failure to comply results in a court appearance ticket or summons,” said Gesel.

If the board decides to amend village code and allow village residents to raise chickens, a public hearing would need to be held prior to approval.

Trustee Deb Rogers said she plans to keep an open mind and looks forward to learning more as this process moves along.

“After all, one of my many roles as a village trustee is to foster community involvement by listening to residents’ ideas and establishing policy direction, as deemed appropriate, to help foster continuous community improvement,” said Rogers.

If interested in viewing the town’s code on raising chickens, visit www.ecode360.com/15501948.

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