Chickens Might Have to 'Fly the Coop' in Fenton
Bossardets ask for an ordinance that would allow their egg-layers.
Her family's chickens are easy to keep, sixth-grader Olivia Bossardet told Fenton City Council on Monday. They eat everything, including insects, grass, string cheese and leftovers from the Sagebrush Cantina and The French Laundry.
The eggs are safe and organic, with higher levels of omega 3 fatty acid, vitamin A and other vitamins. Three hens lay an average of two eggs per day, and her family sells the eggs for $3 per dozen. Each of her three children recieve a dollar from the sale, said mother Malissa Bossardet.
It's a big trend in cities like New York, San Francisco, Lansing and Grand Rapids, to allow people to keep chickens, she said. She didn't know they weren't allowed in the city of Fenton when she brought some home.
Now some residents and city council members are squawking. They don't want to live near chickens because of the potential for noise and odors, while the Bossardets want to change Fenton's ordinance so the animals are allowed.
A lot of people have approached Mayor Sue Osborn, saying they don't want a chicken coop next to their house, Osborn said. "It's kind of a touchy situation."
Resident Cherie Smith, of the Beautification Commission, also said people have contacted her about the issue. "I got a phone call from a tradesperson who was 'driven insane' by the crowing of roosters."
She and her husband Ben, a city council member, once lived near a neighbor who had chickens, including roosters. "They crowed," Cherie Smith said. "If I had a vote, I'd vote no. I don't want to live by chickens."
Bossardet said her house was voted one of the most beautiful in Fenton, and she has about an acre of land. Her family keeps it very clean, and Fenton has ordinances in place that protect people from odor and noise.
None of her neighbors have complained, and "They love the eggs," she said.
Councilwoman Cheryl King said, many times neighbors say they don't have a problem with something because they don't want to offend people who live near them.
Bossardet said her neighbors have told her they'd rather listen to a couple of hens squawking instead of dogs barking. In addition, she said she isn't trying to get an ordinance that includes roosters. Her goal is for hens only to be allowed, like in most cities that have an ordinance allowing chickens.
Councilwoman Dianne North said she believes the Bossardets' chickens are great. It's something the family can do together and profit from a little. And it teaches the children about caring for animals.
And problems could arise in the city from someone having a compost pile, too many dogs or even little pet pigs, North said.
Councilman Tim Faricy said council needs to think of the broader city, and people who might not be like the Bossardets in maintaining their property and homes. In addition, many of the lot sizes in the city are much smaller than the Bossardets.'
On the other hand, "I like the effort Olivia is doing," Faricy said. "And I don't want to catch it from her friend, my granddaughter."
Councilman Brad Jacob said his brother decided to get chickens, telling his neighbors what he was doing. A neighbor was worried, but Jacob's brother went ahead with it anyway, building a coop and putting the chickens in.
Eight months later, the neighbor went into their local government office and asked what he could do to stop Jacob's brother from getting chickens.
"He'd had the chickens for eight months," Jacob said. "The guy had no idea he'd had chickens."
That made every argument the man had null and void, since he'd lived next to several hens for eight months and hadn't noticed them, Jacob said. His brother did not have a rooster, and it would be good to prohibit roosters in Fenton to control noise, Jacob added.
Osborn said she will check to see what other cities are doing on the issue of chickens, and talk to Fenton's zoning administrator. "I am curious to see how other cities are dealing with it."
She is a single mother of three, including one child with autism, Bossardet said. In addition, food is very expensive and a lot of it contains pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Her chickens produce fresh, organic eggs for the family.
North said, the bottom line is, "You can have somebody move in who has 17 cats."
At the end of the council work session, Cherie Smith said she believe Bossardet went about the chicken issue backward.
Osborn said Bossardet should have gone to the planning commission for a special use permit, before getting the chickens. The Bossardet family does have a large lot. "You also have to consider everyone in the city," Osborn said.