Thursday, June 28, 2012

"The Farmer and the Cowman Should Be Friends"

There's a certain frontier quality about life in Hudson. People make spontaneous U-turns in the middle of the block, roll through stop signs, dump whole bags of fast-food trash in the street, blast their car radios, roar down Warren Street on motorcycles, deal drugs in public parks--all seemingly without compunction or fear of retribution. Now there's a new law being contemplated by the Common Council Legal Committee that could set the stage for an Oklahoma! style rivalry between the owners of different kinds of livestock.

One of the agenda items at last night's Legal Committee meeting was a revised chicken law, lifting the ban on keeping chickens within the city limits of Hudson. Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward), who chairs the committee, is pursuing this change in the law because "several people," one of whom is his wife, want to raise chickens to produce eggs. According to Victor Mendolia, chair of the Hudson City Democratic Committee who was present at the meeting, there are "a number of people in Hudson who are already keeping chickens" and would like their now illegal activity legitimized.

After a brief exchange of bad chicken-inspired puns by Friedman and committee members Don Moore (Council president) and David Marston (First Ward alderman), Mayor William Hallenbeck explained that the current law (Section 70.16 of the City Code), adopted in 2004, making it illegal to keep chickens in Hudson, was adopted in response to a particular incident that occurred in the city. A dog got into a chicken yard and killed some chickens. The owner of the chickens took his own revenge and shot the offending dog with a gun. Hallenbeck expressed concern about creating a "controversy between chicken owners and dog owners."

There are enough laws in Hudson that go unenforced, for various reasons, by the police and code enforcement. What we don't need is a new law that would allow the creation of potential nuisance situations (chicken coops, we're told, attract rats) and would require a higher level of monitoring and enforcement than the current law. If there are people in Hudson keeping chickens despite the fact that it is illegal, and the Code Enforcement Office is doing nothing about it, how can there be any assurance that all the safeguards being written into the law to prevent chicken coops from becoming a public health nuisance--as well as a threat to people's quiet enjoyment of their homes--will be enforced?           


  1. Mmmm.... keeping chickens could give the feral cats something to do.

  2. Carole, personally, I would like to see us move toward a more self-sustaining energy and agricultural community; in addition to the wonderful arts, antiques, and music cultures that are being nourished here. The problems you cite are not animal problems -- they are people problems. Cluck-cluck.

  3. Let there be chickens!

    no roosters tho

  4. This is something that a lot of us can get behind. Thank you Alderman and Mrs. Friedman.

    Banning roosters, well ... obviously.

    If you recall your E.B. White, you'll know that rats are talented egg thieves. That gives chicken owners a lot of incentive to build varmint-proof coops (a door that locks tightly enough to prevent predators from working their way in, and a floor that they can't dig into from outside). There are many effective coop designs to choose from.

    But what a delightful education about past law-making efforts in Hudson: dog bites chicken; man kills dog; chicken becomes an outlaw.

  5. Roosters are noisy, but hens aren't. Many places allow backyard chickens (hens only) now. (My grandmother, in Ghent always had chickens when I was a child and I loved to feed them and collect eggs. And progressive school now want children 'to know where their food comes from')
    A friend in the know about this issue, tells me these will be the most expensive eggs she will ever eat.
    There is much info on line about this topic so one can make an informed decision about voting on the law and about having your own chickens.
    Here is a recently acted law that makes sense to me, but each city should tailor the law to meet its conditions.

  6. The opportunity to raise and benefit from "urban chickens" is an interesting idea. Whether it comes to pass or not . . . can't really tell at this point.

    What's more interesting, however, was the topic of the committee's initial discussion last night: enforcement of our building maintenance and safety, and nuisance laws, to help bring landlords into the effort to reduce crime and other health and safety issues where they exist in the city. But I understand how all the clucking over the chicken issue makes for more entertaining copy.

  7. Carol, with all due respect, I'm a little confused by your outrage over this law. what's your issue here? rats? dogs getting shot? Do you have stock in eggs at the farmers' market and you'll take a loss due to competition?

    It seems many more people are for this than against it. The comments of your own readership show that to be the case. I live next to John and his lovely wife and we're cool with it.

    I think your final sentence illuminates your actual issue with the chickens. Hens are not going to disturb you as you "quietly enjoy your home." you just think they're in bad taste. If that's your opinion fine, but don't try and hide it with transparent and weak insinuations of a coming plague.

    It seems to me you just feel like chickens aren't classy looking enough for our sophisticated city. Well, while chickens may seem low-class to you, Hudson would look more historically accurate with chickens in back yards. And historical accuracy seems to be of greater importance to Gossips then law enforcement issues.

  8. Sam Pratt submitted this comment about "urban chickens":

    Carole, this concern that chicken coops would increase rat activity in Hudson seems a bit specious, and maybe even thinly-sourced...

    Perhaps your source is an expert, but there would hardly seem to be a shortage of attractions for rats, mice, etc. in Hudson — unsecured dumpsters, open trash barrels, poorly-sealed garbage bags, and general food litter on the sidewalks and alleys... Plus coop owners actually would have an incentive to secure them from infestation.

    We should encourage every opportunity for small communities to feed themselves in our current global situation.

    It’s also amusing that the Mayor is concerned about courting “controversy” between chicken and dog owners... Would that there were similar concern about, say, controversy between extremely wealthy developers or industrial interests and the people of Hudson.

  9. P.S. There was a rooster who liked to crow a lot in the 600 block of Union in the past year. It was charming, not disruptive. Unfortunately some people snatched him away.


  10. The discourse above and in the main post is beyond absurd and flirts with outright bathos.

    Allowing the keeping of chickens in Hudson is a dumb idea. Let's not get caught up in mindless idealistic drivel. Most houses have skinny backyards that front on alleys. The noise, the waste and the structures needed to house chickens will detract from the tailored beauty that our small city is striving for.

    The romance of raising chickens and collecting eggs wears rather thin after five days, trust me.

    Plus, it is so damn Brooklyn!

    A better idea is to have a half acre of privately donated land set aside where people can experiment and mess around with egg production. Oh yeah, and put it next to the dog park. That'll drive all the "native" Hudsonians who spit their daily venom against the so-called "citiots" on around the bend.

  11. I think chickens belong on a farm, not in a city environment. Like Sam says, we already have "unsecured dumpsters, open trash barrels, poorly-sealed garbage bags, and general food litter on the sidewalks and alleys..." and you want to add chickens to that mix?
    Poultry, in close contact with humans, can spread disease, this is from the NIH web site:

    The first avian influenza virus to infect humans occurred in Hong Kong in 1997. The epidemic was linked to chickens and classified as avian influenza A (H5N1).

    Human cases of avian influenza A (H5N1) have since been reported in Asia, Africa, Europe, Indonesia, Vietnman, the Pacific, and the near East. Hundreds of people have become sick with this virus. Slightly more than 60% of those who became ill have died.

    The more the avian flu virus spreads, the greater the chances of a worldwide outbreak in humans. There is a tremendous concern that H5N1 poses an enormous pandemic threat.

    The following people have a higher risk for developing the bird flu:

    Farmers and others who work with poultry

    Travelers visiting affected countries

    Those who touch an infected bird

    Those who eat raw or undercooked poultry meat, eggs, or blood from infected birds.
    It's hot as hell here in the summer time, the backyards are small, this is no place for farm animals. The idea that keeping chickens in a city environment is part of a counter-culture, futuristic, world healing game plan is strange twist is you ask me. Better to stop keeping and eating animals altogether, grow beans instead.

  12. And a chicken runs through it....
    So why did the chicken cross the road?
    I thought Hudson has its chicken war during the 1980's-90's with Dolan vs. Egan.
    Can't recall the outcome.
    So if you have a chicken can I have a cow?
    Is egg vs milk next at the CC mtg?
    And besides, could you all please read again Slowart's comment

  13. Without quite so much panic, the following if from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website:

    "Although avian influenza A viruses usually do not infect humans, rare cases of human infection with avian influenza A viruses have been reported."