Fate Of Controversial Chickens Rests With Judge
Municipal judge expects to rule by June 28 on whether resident Victor Alfieri can keep three hens on his property. Alfieri has championed getting the law changed so more people can own hens on smaller lots.
The fate of Victor Alfieri’s chickens is in legal limbo.
Alfieri, an advocate of sustainability, received a summons earlier this year for keeping three chickens on his property. Town law states that chickens can only be kept on lots two acres or larger. Alfieri owns about a quarter of an acre.
Alfieri appeared before municipal judge Lawrence Katz May 17 regarding the summons.
“I do believe that owning chickens should be regulated, but ultimately it comes down to the responsibility of the homeowner,” Alfieri said. “I feel like I’m raising these hens in a responsible way.”
Court Administrator Lori Ellicott said that Katz needed time to research the case and the law regarding the matter. She said Katz would issue his ruling by June 28.
Alfieri has had his three hens in his backyard for three years. The hens are kept in a multi-level coop inside a fenced-in chicken run. He insists the chickens are not loud or noisy, despite complaints from his neighbors to the contrary. Each hen lays about 300 eggs annually.
Alfieri insists that he not breaking the law by having the hens on his property. He said he has never been fined for owning the hens or told by anyone that he needs to get rid of them.
Alfieri has been trying for years to change the law to allow more people to own chickens, which he says are an important part of a leading a more sustainable lifestyle.
The council voted against an ordinance that would have decreased the minimum lot size from two acres to about one quarter of an acre, but council members said the new lot size was too small to support voting in favor of the change.
‘I’m not against chickens,” Councilwoman Lonni Miller Ryan previously said, “but I think we need to consider smaller lot sizes.”
The original ordinance governing the keeping of chickens on private property was approved in 1949. The lot size requirement was added to the law in 1958.
Alfieri contents that the law applies to commercial agricultural uses, not personal use. He said he has never sold or bred any chickens or eggs since owning the hens. He said that having large gardens, hens, and other animals was common when the law was created because the country was recovering from World War II.
“People look at some of these laws as if they were made today. This law was made a long time ago and things were different back then,” Alfieri said. “People wouldn’t have 30 hens, they had three or four. It has nothing to do with what I’m doing.”
Alfieri said he would appeal the decision if Katz rules against him.
“I have every intention of appealing if he rules against me,” Alfieri said.
Alfieri owns the hens and has several small gardens on his property. He harvests thousands of pounds of vegetables, fruit, herbs, and spices from them every year. He grows everything using all-natural, organic materials. He fertilizes his gardens with food scraps and eggshells, among other natural materials.
“If I do win, it’ll be a victory for healthy living and sustainability,” Alfieri said.