Some see fowl problem, others see egg opportunity
TUPPER LAKE — This village has begun counting its chickens, or rather, counting its residents’ opinions on whether keeping egg-laying hens should be allowed in the village boundaries.
A 60-day public comment period on the topic began Wednesday following a village board meeting where public comments mostly fell among the “against” camp, with a handful of residents saying they do not mind chickens or are currently raising some themselves.
Farm animals, including chickens, are currently outlawed in the local joint zoning rules the village has with the town of Tupper Lake, though they are legal in the town, according to Code Enforcement Officer Peter Edwards.
The two municipalities are in the process of drafting new zoning regulations, which Edwards said would have language allowing egg-laying hens back in village. However, he pointed out these new regulations are still a long way from being passed. Roosters would not be allowed in the village either way.
Trustee Ron LaScala introduced the idea at last month’s board meeting and Edwards asked the board to vote on whether they would consider amending the law. The board voted 3-2 to hold a public hearing on the issue.
LaScala keeps two chickens in his backyard already.
Village Mayor Paul Maroun said residents can call or mail the village office to voice their opinions on the issue. Village Clerk Mary Casagrain is collecting and putting together a tally of comments for and against the proposal.
Maroun also said the chicken issue will be on the table at the board’s January and February meetings, during which residents can call in and speak directly to the board.
According to Casagrain, the current tally is three comments for chicken rearing and 12 comments against.
Edwards said he will investigate the topic if the board eventually asks him.
Maroun said he is not confident changing the law is a good idea.
Trustee Leon LeBlanc opposed the idea when it was first proposed.
Trustees Clint Hollingsworth and Jason McClain have not spoken strongly on the issue one way or the other, saying they want to hear what the public has to say in this comment period first.
LaScala supports changing the law.
This law change may come with regulations capping the number of chickens which could be kept based on the size of a property, banning roosters or setting rules on proper maintenance of coops.
Bruce Van Vranken of Lindsay Avenue said he sent a letter to the village opposing changing the law.
“My great fear is individuals who give little care to their existing property at present would be the parties inviting this practice and unkempt chicken coops,” Van Vranken wrote in the letter.”
To put the burden of having our code enforcement officer the sole individual of issuing permits and monitoring properties for head count of chickens and square footage per yard is absolutely ludicrous.”
He asked why Edwards has not cited LaScala for his violation.
Beulah Gonyea said on Underwood Road where she lives, people have raised chickens there before, and that they bring wild animals in.
“They’ve all been killed by coy dogs, people’s dogs that are loose and bears have been coming out because they know there are chickens on the street,” Gonyea said. “It’s a danger to the people who are out at night.”
John Schryver of Lake Street said he is “totally against it.” He and his wife Carrie wrote a letter to the board saying they worry about people not thinking of their neighbors when they buy chickens.
Dorie and Jacques Patry of McFarland Avenue wrote that they are “100% opposed” to hens in the village, saying they do not want to be subjected to the smell.
Bruce Cook of Demars Boulevard told the board he is “100% in favor of keeping chickens,” saying it is a hobby which has become common in urban and suburban areas, and that raising chickens allows families to provide their own food, eat healthy and show kids where their food comes from. He said the panic-buying during the spring COVID-19 lockdown made people want to be closer to their food sources.
He believes if a coop is maintained it can be an attractive addition to a yard.
“Even though I have no plans to keep and raise chickens, I have no concern or issues with those that do,” Cook wrote.
Jim Moody of Tallman Street said in a letter he is “100% against” chickens. He said a neighbor two doors down from him had noisy chickens and that he reported them to the code enforcement officer and they were removed.
“I would rather have the Village concentrate on infrastructure improvements than chicken patrol,” Moody wrote.
Sally Price and William Hutt of Barry Street wrote to the village board to say they are against changing the code because “most people start out with good intentions of keeping the coop clean, but as time goes on they don’t take care of what they have promised.”
They said Edwards has enough on his plate already.
Ellen Maroun, who lives on Raquette River Drive right outside the village limits, told the board she wants the village to keep its current law the way it is. She later added that she felt owning chickens had gotten out of control in the past and that the village was “reluctant” to address the problem.
“Unless things have changed drastically, and I don’t believe they have, I don’t think that — enforcement, follow-up or follow-through — that we either have the manpower or the constitution to do that,” Ellen said.
Tupper Lake Free Press Publisher and River Road resident Dan McClelland, who lives just outside of the village limits, owns rental properties throughout the village. He said he doesn’t see a problem with chicken ownership in the village, with restrictions on numbers and adequate care.
Last month former Trustee David “Haji” Maroun pointed out that chicken owning is already semi-prevalent in the village, despite the current law, with 25 people he knew of owning them.
Lori Jean Kross-Bleau and Alva Bleau of Savard Street say they supply their friends and neighbors with eggs from the six hens they are raising in a tall coop tucked away in the back of their yard, which lay around five eggs a day.
In a call to the village office, Kross-Bleau said they do not plan to get rid of their chickens, as their property is large and borders one neighbor, whom they said does not mind the hens and who enjoys their eggs.
The couple bought the chicks in April at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid uncertainty about the future of food supply chains, but Kross-Bleau said Alva has wanted to raise chickens for a little while.
“Otherwise I wouldn’t have them,” she said.
But in the months since, she said she’s come to love Purdue, Tyson, Chicken Nugget, Chicken Patty, Daisy and Woodstock.
“They’ve become like pets,” Kross-Bleau said.
The hens live in a coop Alva built, which is equipped with a heat lamp, food, water and a perch. They stay in there for the most part, the two said, and are not “free range” chickens wandering about. When they were younger they were kept in a coop right next to the backyard porch. Kross-Bleau said she could sit out there without smelling or hearing them.
She did not worry, as others have, about the chickens attracting predators.
“We have critters here, chickens or no chickens,” Kross-Bleau said. “We have a fox that comes through here every day. We’ve had a bear. The woodchucks, the minks the skunks and everybody else. We live in the wilderness. We have wildlife.”
Alva said a bear would be more likely to come for a snack at their berry patch instead.