Thursday, November 15, 2012

Crunch Time 4 Chesapeake Hens

Laying hens are back on the agenda for Chesapeake City Council. Our organization, 4 Chesapeake Hens, has been trying to get backyard micro-flocks of six laying hens legalized for single-family residences throughout Chesapeake, VA. (Why six? Click here). The current laws allow chickens only on land zoned agricultural. There is one exception: residents who own RE-1 "residential estates" of three acres or more may keep up to four hens, no roosters, in a pen as household pets. In effect, you must have the money to have substantial land in Chesapeake to raise your own fresh eggs. We have been working hard to change that!

Our organization inexplicably suffered a setback at a Planning Commission hearing, as explained in prior posts: click here for the Commission meeting itself, here for our group's frustration at the lack of commentary by the Commissioners who voted against hens, and here for Commissioner Adam Perry's comments on backyard hens. Our official position is that we support a proposed change to existing ordinances, TA-Z-12-07, with changes to allow up to six hens and the removal of the privacy fencing requirement. The hens will already be required to stay in a pen, and the privacy fence will be an unnecessary and cumbersome financial burden for those who merely want a few fresh eggs!

We have new members joining us on Facebook every day. If you are new and want to know what you can do to help, here is a list:

  1.  Like our Facebook page for the latest news and information.
  2. Print up flyers to distribute in likely places, such as at feed stores or with sympathetic coworkers.
  3. Consider sending an email such as this one to friends who are Chesapeake residents. Be sure to sign it!
  4. Contact the mayor and city council members to let them know how you feel. Be polite and respectful.
  5. Most of all, COME to the City Council meeting on November 20. Some Councilors fail to realize how many residents from all across our city and from all walks of life care about this issue and support hens. Since the Planning Commission voted against us 4-3, there will be a negative recommendation against us. We need a huge show of support to counter this. Wear red, the color of the "Little Red Hen," and bring every supporter you can round up for us. 
The meeting starts at 6:30. If you desire to speak, show up by 6:15. You will need to fill out a speaker card and turn it in before the meeting starts in order to be heard. Plan to limit your remarks to five minutes. Realize you might be required to cut your remarks back to three minutes; speakers are guaranteed three minutes if there are too many speakers. So far we've had no problems getting five, though.

If you care, be there! And bring family, coworkers, and friends.

If you have any questions, post them on Facebook or comment here, and I'll get back to you.  If you want to learn more about urban laying hens, our research page is a great place to start. We also have a YouTube Channel that highlights our efforts in front of City Council and the Planning Commission in recent months. The Planning Commission meeting is especially motivating. Not one person spoke against the hens, several spoke for, but the Commissioners voted against them without one word of explanation: not what I expect from my tax dollars at work!

Update: On November 20, Chesapeake City Council voted 6-3 to allow hens with certain restriction in residential areas.

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