City resident cries foul on chicken law

GLOVERSVILLE – City resident Jodi Stevens spoke to the Common Council on Tuesday night, questioning the city code’s classification of chickens as farm animals. The code prohibits farm animals on properties smaller than five acres, which excludes most residential plots.

Stevens was sporting chicken fingernails and a chicken purse during her address to the council and told officials in today’s economy chickens can be a valuable resource for families that would like to have them for providing fresh eggs.

She also addressed the misconception that chickens are loud animals, pointing out that while roosters can crow loudly, hens tend to be quiet. Many legal house pets are louder than hens, she said.

Stevens told The Leader-Herald she doesn’t have any chickens now but would like to have them if the council would change the definition of farm animal in the city code.

“I want chickens, but because of the rules in the city, I can’t have them,” Stevens said.

She said a neighbor in Connecticut had chickens, and her family fell in love with the animals.

In the cities of Gloversville and Johnstown, chickens are not explicitly banned, but for all intents and purposes, they are not allowed.

State law says anyone buying baby chicks must buy them in batches of six or more at a time, because they are animals that thrive in groups.

Members of the Common Council said on Friday they will look at and discuss the code further before making any decision about whether to allow city residents to have the birds on properties smaller than five acres.

Second Ward Councilman Arthur Simonds said he isn’t sure if the council would actually change the code, because he didn’t hear anything from other members wanting to address the issue.

“I think people had some concerns about livestock in the city and some of the issues that have transpired in other cities,” Simonds said. “I think the council would like to research that process and see what happened there before we did something. It will be well thought out before it is ever granted because of the impact it could have on the community. Nothing is going to happen right now, anyway – that’s for sure.”

“I think it is something we need to think seriously about before any decisions are made,” 1st Ward Councilwoman Robin Wentworth said. “I don’t know if it is in the best interest of the city to allow farm animals.”

While the sight of chickens strutting around the yard is associated with rural life, more and more cities and suburban municipalities are allowing residents to keep small broods of hens.

Residents of several Capital Region communities have been fighting their municipal governments to get permission for keeping hens in small numbers. Roosters are not welcome in densely populated areas, where their ear-piercing crowing tends to upset neighbors.

In Schenectady County, Niskayuna town officials took a couple to court for keeping chickens, and they were ordered to give up their birds. Now, John and Brenda Helm are circulating a petition calling for the town to allow “micro-farming” in certain residential areas of the town. (For more information, see

Gloversville Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said his only concern with the farm animals issue is if the chickens were confined in a way that would create a noise complaint. He said in the event of such a complaint, his department would have to issue a ticket for disorderly conduct.

About 3 percent of U.S. homeowners have chickens, according to an April 2012 marketing survey conducted for farm-and-garden retailer Tractor Supply Company, which has stores in Fulton and Montgomery counties.

In other meeting news: The Common Council scheduled a public hearing for April 9 on the subject of allowing Walmart to run an underground electrical line under city property to the sign that will be illuminated by the front entrance of the Fulton County Teachers Federal Credit Union and the new Walmart Supercenter.

The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.