Saturday, December 1, 2012

4 Chesapeake Hens: How did we change the law?

 On our Facebook page, I've been getting inquiries about how our group managed to be so successful that we changed local laws regarding laying hens in residential areas, and in less than a year. Here's my short, but not so simple, answer:

It was hard work in the beginning. I started our page, "4 Chesapeake Hens," under another name in late December of 2011. We started with about two or three "likes" and grew, SLOWLY at first, from there. I tried to keep the page positive, upbeat, and informative. Even when we had few fans, I tried to post some news article about chickens with some comments every day. 

It took weeks before anyone among the fans was posting anything themselves. I took the best of those ideas and shared them on our wall. I did everything I could to publicize our page and our efforts, not just on Facebook but on Twitter, YouTube, XtraNormal,, by email, and through the local media (newspaper and television when opportunity arose). 

When we got some active supporters who made good suggestions, I followed up on the suggestions and let the membership know. I constantly invited members to MEET in person to work together on changing the law. It took months before I actually got the first committed members to join me for a face-to-face meeting. The first meeting was at a local I-Hop. 

Once I had that kind of face-to-face interaction, I invited leadership: those who consistently posted great information on our wall, made good suggestions, and used common sense and courtesy when interacting with others, I made an admin. on our wall. When folks have made suggestions that would help the cause, I've told them to run with it, putting their own energy into it, and supported them all I can.

 I've shown gratitude for everyone's hard work, and it HAS been hard work! I've tried to avoid a culture of excuses and blame; we are all volunteers and contribute what we can, when we can. I've tried to listen very carefully and to compromise and reach a consensus on important matters, even about when and where we'll meet. I've tried to be helpful, giving a ride to events to an interested fan who lacked transportation. I ask for HELP, I work with others, I provide and listen to good information, I discover what others' interests and talents are, and put them to use. 

We became a team involved in a group effort. These were people I didn't know back in December. Many have become my very good friends. "4 Chesapeake Hens" is now a fantastic team with solid leadership. We work together to make great things happen. 

This may sound like a lot of work. You don't know the half of it. But it has been worth it. Soon, my family will be enjoying fresh eggs from Buff Orpington hens cared for right here in my own backyard. We appreciate the help of Robert Ike on our City Council and of Marjon Rostami and others of the Virginian Pilot and Reed Andrews of WVEC TV.

Update 12/2/12: I mentioned data but didn't give any up above. Here are our publications that helped us convince Council:

A Case for Chesapeake Hens

Our rebuttal of the Staff Report  

Lanette Lepper's fantastic report regarding communities with similar density and how hens have had minimal impact there.

Our group's constantly-evolving Chicken Research page.

Update 1/27/14: I forgot to mention one idea that seemed to help: City Council Person of the Week. As a group we would concentrate on one local politician at a time in the weeks leading up to the vote. Our Council Members are elected at large, so this approach seemed to make sense in Chesapeake. Please note that our group developed a reputation for being well-informed and unfailingly polite. This reputation helped us, since that is, unfortunately, NOT what Council Members are used to, and so our approach helped our group stand out.

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