Friday, July 25, 2008

Bringing My Chickens Home

I have been posting less than usual and my posts have been lackluster at best.

Where have I been? I've been fighting city hall!

As many of you know, I have pet chickens in my backyard. Before I ever purchased a single chicken, I called the city of Gresham (where I live) and asked what the rules were regarding chickens in the city. I was told, “The technical code states you must keep your coop 100 ft from any neighbor’s house. But the reality is that the city isn’t going to come looking for your chickens. As long as your neighbors don’t complain it is fine. So, keep your coop clean and don’t have a rooster.” With the size of my yard I can't keep it 100 ft from every neighbor but I took their word that they wouldn't come looking for my chickens. For the last three years I have followed their advice. I have kept my coop clean, kept my chickens quiet, made sure there were no pests (mice, flies, etc) and gave fresh eggs to my neighbors. For three years I have never heard one single complaint from any neighbor. Then my neighbor, who I will call Mr Grouch, called in to Code Enforcement because he was mad about our cat crossing his property line and called on our chickens to get revenge. This neighbor has "issues" with every single neighbor in the neighborhood. He complains about people's dogs, about how loud our kids play, about how fast people drive, I swear sometimes he's mad 'cause we breathe too loud!

I got a notice from the city - I was given two weeks to remove the chickens from my property.

Now these chickens aren't just a source of fresh, free-range, amazing eggs. They are also my children's pets! (Well, my pets, too, I love my little feathered girls!) They also eat all my kitchen scraps and turn them into fertilizer and eggs. They also eat the bugs out of my yard. They are pretty useful - a lot more useful than all the dogs in the neighborhood and a lot quieter! (Please note that I have nothing against dogs. I'd have a dog if I wasn't married to a man who was bit by a dog and isn't a big fan of canines!)

So, did I roll over and say "Yes, please take my chickens away. I really am interested in keeping the neighborhood grouch happy by taking away my children's pets."? No, I did not.

First, I found a place for my chickens if they need to move for a short time. Actually, they will be moving to the neighbor on the other side of Mr Grouch. Their lot is the last one next to a green space and they are able to keep the coop 100 ft from every neighbor. In a strange twist which we can only credit to Divine Order, she had decided to get her own chickens about two weeks before this whole thing happened and had started to build an enclosure for a coop. So, my husband is helping them with their coop (actually building for them), which will look just like ours.

Second, I got a two week extension. So now I have some time to work with.

Third, I set out to change the code. Portland, right next door, allows hens as long as coops are 25 ft from neighbors. I'm trying to get the law changed in Gresham to reflect that. I've gotten statements of support from Seattle Tilth, statements from Portland State University sustainability professors, statistics regarding the "nuisance"-ness of chickens versus dogs (only because dogs are an example of an animal allowed under the code), and statistics on the healthiness of free-range eggs. I know who I need to talk to and who I need to convince.

I'm going to change the laws. I'm going to legally bring my chickens home.