This is Buttercup
Oh for clucking out loud. Just as many of us in Western New York are rejoicing at the sputtering arrival of spring(ish) weather, two of my favorite local gardeners are being intimidated to the point where they may even leave town. Over their chickens.
Sometimes I am almost embarrassed to discuss these Buffalo problems with you all, but in this case I suspect that gardeners who keep chickens in other cities may have experienced problems similar to my friends Blair and Monique. Not every municipality—and certainly not every homeowners’ association—is chicken-friendly.
In Buffalo, chickens were legal until 2004. That year, the law was changed, perhaps because of some cock fighting problems. Monique and Blair bought their chicks last year, having researched the older statute, where chickens were allowed. They found out about the new law eventually, but it was too late; the chickens were already beloved pets and useful egg providers. They kept them. You can read the whole story here.
The 5 roosting
But to make a long story short, Blair and Monique are much more than chicken owners and gardeners. They are also urban pioneers, having bought 2 houses and 2 empty lots in a troubled neighborhood. They live in one house and have renovated/beautified the other properties, in an effort to improve their community and chase out the drug dealers. Their neighborhood is also the one where Buffalo’s co-op garden center, Urban Roots, is located, a garden center Blair and Monique helped start. As I write this, it’s evening, and the neighborhood drug dealing is likely going on at a lively pace, but—never fear—the chickens have been taken away (removed to a safe place). An anonymous 911 call prompted quicker action against the chickens than most other illegalities in the neighborhood had ever received.
Their house and adjacent pen
Here’s the thing: there is every chance that the City of Buffalo will amend the chicken law, most likely in a way to allow hen-keeping with some regulations. I harbor no illusions that our city fathers have kept up with the popularity of chicken-keeping in urban areas, but I do know that they are now getting a crash course in how chickens are legally kept (under various regulations) in cities everywhere, including New York, Baltimore, Chicago, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Boise, and Portland. I got my information from the wonderful City Chicken site; I’m sure many of you are familiar with it. (And apologies to Amy as I am equally sure she has previously shared this information and more.)
Can you help Blair, Monique, and other hen-loving Buffalo residents keep their chickens or buy a hen or two? Blair and Monique would appreciate your support in the form of emails to our Common Council President David Franczyk (firstname.lastname@example.org) and our mayor Byron Brown (email@example.com or MayorBrownWebMail@ch.ci.buffalo.ny.us if that doesn’t work). Some of you will remember that your emails had a wonderful effect in saving fellow Buffalonian Jean Dickson’s front yard garden. This time they could help change a law. I am optimistic, as a large grassroots effort is already underway locally.
In closing, I offer a neighborhood chicken-sitter’s thoughts about Buttercup and the rest of the hens:
I’ve “chicken sat” for Monique and the hens are absolutely beautiful animals. The colors and patterns of their feathers are lovely. They’re quiet, too—about as noisy as a pigeon warbling at the loudest. Monique and Blair are about the best neighbors ANYONE could hope for, anywhere, and the chickens are well cared for. I joke that their coop is nicer than my house… except that it’s kind of true. (It’s not true.)
And this from Friend of Rant and chicken aficionada Robin/Bumblebee: My chickens will come running from the other side of our property when they hear me call “Where are my chickens?” My hens will jump on my lap and let me pet them. … They all make me smile whenever I see them.