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Chickens Living In Backyards Could Become More Common

Victor Alfieri's mission to allow chickens on small properties closer to being reality.

Getting fresh eggs could be as easy as going out to one’s backyard soon.

The introduced an ordinance Wednesday that reduces the amount of land residents need to keep chicken hens on their property.

The town currently allows up to 25 hens to be kept on a property that is 2 acres in size or larger. The ordinance would amend the law so that four hens could be kept on properties that are at least 10,000 square feet in size. Residents must apply for a zoning permit and pay a $25 fee before the animals are allowed on a property.

Victor Alfieri has so more people can take advantage of what he says are the “many wonderful things” hens have to offer. Alfieri has three hens living in a pen in his backyard.

“It helps make Wayne a more sustainable town and will improve the collective quality of life here,” said Alfieri, who helped write the legislation. "I'm very pleased with the ordinance."

Each of Alfieri’s hens lays approximately 300 eggs a year. He uses eggshells and manure to fertilize several vegetable gardens on his property. He said the animals make a minimal amount of noise and are not dirty.

“I think the town has lagged behind with regards to sustainability,” Alfieri said. “This ordinance is a great start to helping make Wayne a more sustainable place to live.”

The ordinance states that chicken coops must be kept “clean and dry,” located in a backyard, and be least 10 feet away from property lines. Chicken runs must be between 32 and 80 square feet in area. Pens and coops are subject to random inspection by the township. Roosters are not allowed and breeding chickens is prohibited. Hens cannot be slaughtered and the eggs they produce cannot be sold.

The council is scheduled take a final vote on the ordinance at its next meeting on March 21. If approved, the new law would go into effect April 10.

Some officials support the proposed changes.

“I think this is a good thing in this day and age where more people are talking about sustainability and healthier lifestyles,” Councilman Al Sadowski said.

Councilman Joseph Schweighardt abstained from voting on introducing the ordinance. He said that chickens are not the reason why he didn’t vote.

“It’s spot zoning,” Schweighardt said. “To simply take an ordinance and change it to meet one individual’s needs and desires is simply wrong.”

Schweighardt said he is trying to protect residents’ quality of life and preserve property values.

“We’re not in a rural area and I wouldn’t want to live next to someone who has chickens on his or her property. Residents’ collective quality of life is what I must account for first,” Schweighardt said. “I admire Mr. Alfieri for what he’s doing, but the value of someone’s property is not a small consideration.” 

Victor Alfieri March 09, 2012 at 10:19 PM
I was contacted by a member of the "Mahwah Environmental Commission." So sit tight, I will be working on changing there law to. Go to my website and shoot me an e-mail. I will keep you posted.
Victor Alfieri March 09, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Dude...I can not control what other people do. But keep in mind there are good dog owners and bad dog owners. Should we ban dogs because someone does not know how to take care of it?
the dude March 09, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Vegetable gardens attract rodents...but not chicken coops? Old Joe was right about you.
the dude March 09, 2012 at 10:29 PM
We can decide these issues on a case-by-case basis. Because we choose to regulate the keeping of chickens, it does not follow that we must ban dogs.
Victor Alfieri March 09, 2012 at 10:29 PM
Dude....you are not getting the point. It's not the chickens it the food. When using this argument opposing the owning of hens please keep in mind feeding birds is not ILLEGAL.
Sandy Fantau March 09, 2012 at 10:38 PM
On the lighter side. I had 10 wild turkeys in my back yard. What do they attract?
leanbean March 09, 2012 at 10:38 PM
Victor, Your wrong again. It is illegal to feed fowl in this town. And if I learned correctly a fowl is a bird. They both have feathers and a two feet some are webed and some are not. On your lot you still wouldn't be able to comply with the new Ord. even if it passes. So I guess you better move to Sussex and enjoy playing with your bird.
leanbean March 09, 2012 at 10:40 PM
Sandy last week I had 17 across the street from me. 1 Hen and 16 Toms
Victor Alfieri March 09, 2012 at 10:40 PM
what about your backyard, can you feed birds ?
the dude March 09, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Feeding birds doesn't create the kind of problems that chicken coops do. Up county they used to leave trash bags at the curb like we do now. That attracted bears, so it's now illegal. At one time in Wayne nearly every residence kept chickens. As the town developed, the keeping of chickens created probems for neighbors...namely rats...and so it was regulated to keep the coops far away from property lines. That was a good idea. The new ordinance, in my opinion, is not. The new ordinance will likely fail, because permitting chicken coops within 10 feet of a neighbor's property is not in the public's best interests.
LishaP March 10, 2012 at 01:14 AM
@Victor - this is all very interesting. Having had chickens as a child and wanting my own children to have a healthy lifestyle and eat healthy and nutricious (sp?) foods, I am very interested in the possibility of raising chickens on my one-acre property. Did I read that you have a website? Can you offer any information to someone wanting to investigate the possibility of raising chickens? Thank you for bringing this to our attention.
Diane Hummel March 10, 2012 at 02:01 AM
If people want to have chickens on their property, I am all for it - as long as they live on a 2 acre or more plot of land. It is not fair for the people that live on top of one another in this suburb to have to endure the threat of unsanitary conditions that chickens could possibly bring. It is true that there are many things that attract rodents, but changing this law will just be another legal way for unsanitary conditions to exist. I know many people who reap the benefits of having fresh eggs laid by chickens on their property, and they all comply with the rules of their towns and the space issues. Laws should not be changed just because one person has no regard for his neighbors and wants to do whatever he/she wants.
Joe videodummy March 10, 2012 at 04:12 AM
Nope. Rat's aren't attracted to chicken's, rabbit's or pigeons that are healthy and maintain a proper diet. The "coop", if constructed properly will not provide a place for rats to enter, live or breed. The "run" or pen provides adequet shelter from all animals -rats included. I raised pigeons for many years. I lost a few to hawks, but never as much as seen a rat around the coop. Chickens do not pose any threat to other wild-life, they are easy to care for, and they make great pets especially around young children.
the dude March 10, 2012 at 04:26 AM
Pay no attention to the videodummy. Google "Backyard chickens and rats"
Joe videodummy March 10, 2012 at 05:18 AM
Built -in swimming pools attract rats, more-so than a properly constructed chicken coop. I provided a couple of photographs of what a "legal" chicken coop should look like. I've also make coops on wheels used to transport around the yard. To be honest 4 chickens create far less "waste" than the family dog ( or cat ), and there's no ordinance stopping them from running about and peeing on the bushes. Unlike cats, dogs and rabbit's, chickens don't lay baby chick's, they lay eggs. I also doubt you'll find chicken owners standing outside the local food store trying to find good homes for their eggs either. You won't see your neighbor and their chicken on a leash outside your front window taking a dump at the curb, and won't hear your neighbors chickens whowling or barking at everything from a local jogger, to the mailman every time they pass by. The chicken coops cost about $250-300.00 if purchased as a kit. Less if you make the material list and purchase it at Lowes or Home Depot. and Concerned Resident- I let my son run around my yard with a mig welder zapping lightening bugs in the summer...what's the ordinance for that ? You're pathetic if you worry about what your neighbors are doing. One day my kid might decide to build a monster truck back there, or weld a swing set together, still it's no concern of yours.
Rob Burke March 10, 2012 at 11:19 AM
Bar flies
Rob Burke March 10, 2012 at 11:23 AM
Just ate 2 eggs over easy straight from one of my customer's chicken coops. Thanks again Ralph! If only I could start a pancake farm....
Victor Alfieri March 10, 2012 at 01:03 PM
Here you go Lisa, http://www.woodlotfarms.com/
Diane Hummel March 10, 2012 at 02:57 PM
I love how these blogs are just a chance for "mature" adults to call one another names. @ Joe - call me pathetic all you want - I will not play into your hatred of those who don't have the same opinions as you. As for the issue, it is for the township to decide what is going to happen.
Rob Burke March 10, 2012 at 03:15 PM
I'm surprised the Council didn't ask Mr. Alfieri to hire an expert in chickens to testify on said expert's professional opinion on the risks attendant with chickens. With that expert testimony in hand, all of these fears and concerns could be proved or disproved and then the Council could make an informed decision. Isn't that what they usually do, when they aren't trying to do someone a favor?
Justice March 10, 2012 at 03:59 PM
The township doesn't decide anything. This is a totalitarian regime in Wayne. Those appointed to power decide. It is as simple as that. There is no democracy here. Only dictatorship and control.
Joe videodummy March 10, 2012 at 10:19 PM
C.R. It's all good, and I don't have any hatred. Reading the guidelines of the ordinance proposed, the town would require a permit and would have a site inspection regarding compliance, as well as being allowed to make further inspections to assure the permit holder remains in compliance. This should eliminate the unsanitary portion of your decision.
freeforall March 11, 2012 at 01:48 AM
I love the whole sustainability lifestyle, and the green earth concept, and really don't think I would object to a small coop even on 15,000 SF lots. The problem I have is the fact that there is a current violation of the townships ordinance that has admitably been going on for over 4 years according to Mr Alferi, and the Zoning Officer has made a decision not to enforce the law of the township. How is it possible that the individual responsible for compliance and being paid handsomely for that position, can decide what ordinances should and should not be enforced? With all of the current questions about the morals and ethics of the local governing bodies, how does this admitted, confirmed and debated violation not get addressed until the law has been modified or affirmed? How does every Wayne resident get a free pass like this?
Sydney March 11, 2012 at 03:38 PM
freeforall - I would say that just shows you that the township realizes that sustainability is something that can no longer be ignored. They also have compassion.
Chris Traynor March 12, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Anyone familiar with me knows any farm-related knowledge I've gained of chickens was taught to me by the great Foghorn Leghorn. Beyond that my expertise is purely culinary; from nuggets to wings to marsala and parmagiana. I know a little about economics, politics & slippery slopes and this issue is as much about "Chickens in Suburbia" as it is about the weaponry & power of the forbidden "Grown At Home" Movement. I'm certain at one point, rats & fowl, foul garbage & complaints about lousy "Chicken Parents" were central to making more stringent rules & regulations but now that's COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOKIE. Briefly, this flat, “no change in sight” economy w/unemployment barely improving & jobs not offering true salary bumps, safety net benefits or even a trusted promise of employment NO LONGER "BUYS THE GROCERIES." Sustenance Farming should be an option for us all to HELP BRIDGE THE FOOD GAP (groceries rocketing upward ... why?). This new policy still won't let us butcher "Grown At Home" meat or sell eggs or veggies. Given a chance we could create a progressive hybrid economy in which we are both employees & micro-entrepreneurs. This would give us choice & a degree of independence; perhaps a way off the Middle Class Trail of Tears. The 1% can't stomach us as both sheep & shepherd: it doesn't fit the long-term plan so they distract us & get us squabbling over hens per acre or Oscar Fashion Disasters. Red v. Blue is a dead end. The issue is Liberty or Leash.
LishaP March 12, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Thank you victor.
Adrian vB March 16, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Dear Sandy, I saw in one of your posts the list of townships that allow chickens. I would love to have two chickens myself. I just recently moved to Essex Fells from Europe and asked at the zoning department if chickens are allowed and they told me "no". Would you mind letting me know where you got that information from so I can get back to them? Thank you very much for your help, Adrian
Jenny Plaza September 29, 2012 at 04:12 AM
We choose Liberty at our house in our town. Our neighbors are happy with our choice of pets. A basket of eggs beats a pile of poop! BTW our 4 (twenty week old) Sex-link hens (2 Red Stars and 2 Black Stars) chased a rat away today. It came down the hill from our fruit trees and running it went. They tried to hurt it (pecking, clawing, and squawking to alert the flock) they almost got the jump on it. Those girls have spunk!!!
Chris Traynor October 01, 2012 at 02:55 AM
Jenny - I think we're on the same side - aren't we? I'm assuming that you have the required acreage to legally own and keep those kick-ass, rat-chasing chickens. If so, that's great but so many of us don't have the land (or the liberty) and can't enjoy a fresh basket of eggs (we actually do have said "pile of poop" from our two chihuahuas ... while the turds are tiny, the frequency of their earthly arrival feeds the pile enough to make it technically qualify as a pile). I will say that your relationship with your chickens sounds very "adult" in nature - between "sex-link hens" and talk of "chicken spunk", I'm not certain I'm old enough to get into that fowl movie. Peach and Feathers Always ... C.T.
Victor Alfieri October 01, 2012 at 11:38 AM
You do not need acreage. Any resident on any size property in Wayne NJ can raise chicken hens, roosters, ducks, turkey, etc...... Any questions contact the local expert.......http://www.woodlotfarms.com/

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