Chickens. Vegans love to save them, carnivores love to eat them, and many folks in the great City of Albany would love the chance to raise them for eggs. Problem is, there stands a law on the books that forbids them within City limits, under the premise that they are “incompatible with City life”.
Enter the Albany Chicken Coalition. A concerned group of citizens has taken it upon themselves to change this law because, frankly, it’s just wrong. The law is built on a dated, (and false) premise. Chickens absolutely belong in cities — they have existed in them for thousands of years, and continue to thrive in cities big and small throughout the world. In the US, cities such as New York, Chicago, LA, Austin, Portland and so on allow chickens, and more cities every day are amending their legislation to follow suit.
Chickens are clean, quiet and adapt well to small spaces. They are easy and fun to care for. They eat food scraps, produce nitrogen-rich fertilizer for your garden, and give you delicious, healthy protein in the form of eggs. As anyone who has a garden knows, being a part of your food cycle is not only a deeply rewarding experience, it’s a step towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Urban agriculture contributes to food safety and food security as well as a vibrant community’s social life. It is detrimental to the health and vitalization of our cities to continue to believe in the misconception that cities should solely be consumers and not producers.
We raised chickens in our downtown Albany backyard for five years without issue. Every morning, rain or shine, somebody was out there giving the girls fresh water, keeping them feed and cleaning up the space. Our kids collected their eggs. We had about 8 birds and spent many a summer afternoon watching them pick the bugs from the dirt and prance around on their skinny little dinosaur legs. It was good. It worked and our neighbors liked it. Kids from the block would want to see the chickens and quiche was always a quick favorite when we spaced on cooking for a potluck. Ahh, the good old days.
Enter the City of Albany. In their infinite, imperial wisdom, the city put the kibosh on our happy little coop. The guy from codes was nice, pleasant, and even somewhat apologetic when he handed us our cease and desist order. It was on a big red card with official print, stamps and the rest of it. It was a bummer. We then did what every red-blooded American does when officials kill the good time–we complained about it on the Internet. The response was amazing. It turns out that many folks in Albany thought it was absurd that we couldn’t have chickens. A lot of people wanted chickens themselves! And so the Albany Chickens Coalition was born.
An ordinance drafted by Dominick Calsolaro, our ward leader, was created to put Albany in line with what every other city was doing. He introduced the amendment to the council; some feathers flew, some people squawked and then they sat on it for awhile.
Fast forward a few months. We’ve sat through several council meetings, committee hearings and neighborhood associations meetings. The original ordinance has been redrafted, revised, expanded and resubmitted. The campaign has grown into a good number of volunteers and it looks like we have about half the city council in support of the amendment to allow five hens under tight guidelines.
The finish line is right around the corner. On April 14th, the Legal, Building and Codes committee will give it a final hearing with the Council vote to follow. We are so close. We need just a couple more council members to cross over and support the chickens.
The truth is, City council members don’t actually represent that many people; which means a little goes a long way. There is a list of the chicken haters at the bottom of this post. Write them. Call them. Ring their door bells. Show up to city hall on the 14th at 5:30pm. Let them know that you want chickens. They do actually listen. Some of them won their seats by REALLY small margins. It’s not difficult to hold them accountable. In the next week they need to hear it from residents that we want chickens. If they do, we will win and you can come over to our house for some omelets.
The biggest chicken haters on the Council:
Joe Igoe–14th Ward
62 Aspen Circle
Albany, NY 12208
Phone: (518) 489-3014
Dan Herring–13th Ward
4 Fairlawn Avenue
Albany, NY 12203
Phone: (518) 438-7527
Maybe chicken haters, maybe not. These ones are on the fence and crucial for the win:
Lester Freeman–2nd Ward
4 Cuyler Street
Albany, New York 12202
Ronald Bailey–3rd Ward
351 Elk Street
Albany, NY 12206
Jackie Jenkins-Cox–5th Ward
352 Colonie Street
Albany, New York 12206
John Rosenzweig–8th Ward
19 Mohican Place
Albany, NY 12208
Phone: (518) 482-6883
Other useful links:
The proposed amendment to allow hens in the city of Albany–http://bit.ly/euSRdD
More information on urban chickens:
This was a guest post from Jen Pursley and Mike Guidice. Thanks guys!