Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Easton City Council Says No to Chickens in City Backyards

By Christina Georgiou

"Firecracker" a Silkie/Cochin mix chicken, is held by
Nicole Kilhullen, 11, of Stewartsville, NJ during
"Chicken Dialogues", a public information session
on the keeping of backyard chickens that was
held a tthe Nurture Nature Center in August.
Those looking for fresh eggs in the City of Easton will have to buy them at the farmers' market, as city council members decided against changing city ordinances to allow the keeping of chickens within city limits Tuesday night.

Council members cited various concerns for problems keeping fowl within the urban environment could potentially cause, and nearly all present at the informal council committee meeting said they would not support the necessary ordinance change to allow the practice.

The issue was raised in May, after College Hill resident Annie Porter requested that local elected officials consider overturning the ban to allow keeping up to six hens, but no roosters, per property. Porter said she wanted to keep the birds to provide fresh eggs for her family, and for their educational value for her children.

A public meeting was held in August at the Nurture Nature Center, where about 60 people gathered for an information session outlining the pros and cons of keeping chickens in urban and residential areas. Most at the meeting, which was also attended by Easton city council members Jeff Warren, Roger Ruggles, Ken Brown, and Sandra Vulcano, seemed to favor of the idea.

A meeting to gather public input was also held in September, but was much more sparsely attended, with about half a dozen city residents speaking in favor of changing the law.

"We've gone through a fairly lengthy process," said Ruggles, who heads the council's planning committee, Tuesday night.

Ruggles said he studied the matter thoroughly, as well as taken input from the city's health and code enforcement officers, and he feels there are more potential issues the city will face if it changes the law than there are potential advantages.

"One of the things in my reading that was never brought up is that chickens draw predators," he said.

"You may be able to protect the chickens with chicken wire, but then the predators go after cats and dogs," said Mayor Sal Panto. "I'm not in favor of changing the law, but maybe (keeping chickens) could be used as a showcase at the urban farm (in South Side)."

"I learned a lot," Vulcano said of her attendance at the Nurture Nature information session. "And I learned that I really don't want chickens living near me."

"I don't see a reason (the law) needs to change," Brown said.

"There are wonderful eggs at the farmers' market," said Councilwoman El Warner. "I'd like to not ever discuss this again."

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