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health kick orange julius smoothie

For the Chickens

During this hearing I would like to spend time discussing two important aspects of this case.

First, I would like to discuss the said violations that the township has cited us for and how it does not apply to us or our situation.

Two, evidence, from a neutral party, in support of our case.

The violation that we have been cited with states:

Chapter 27 Zoning, Section 203 Residential Zone Sub 2A Permitted Uses- You may not raise livestock in the R-2 Zoning District with less than 10 acres of land. Livestock is defined in the agricultural definition as cattle, cows, hogs, horses, sheep, goats, poultry, rabbits, birds, fish, bees, and other similar animals.

We feel that we have been judged inappropriately. We do not feel that we are “raising livestock”. Livestock by definition refers to

::farm animals kept for use or profit.

We by no means are raising anything for use or profit. The kids and I are vegetarian and I personally do not even eat eggs. To date our chickens have not laid a single egg. I would also like to make a note of the word “raise” in this citation. Our chicks have already been raised. They have already been “brought to maturity”. We want to be clear that we do not plan on raising any chickens. We do not have a rooster. I could understand how this could apply to someone who had roosters and a continual flow of chicks which were “raised” year after year, but that is not what we are doing. We consider our chickens to be our pets, just as much as our dog or cat. We will keep our pets, and when they die, we will bury them.

Even poultry by definition refers to

::domesticated birds kept for eggs or meat.

Again, we are vegetarian. Our 6 hens are our pets. They belong to our children. Each of our oldest have two each. Their names are Seraphina, Brownie, Feather, Charcoal, Mommy, and Daddy. They are very easy to care for, and just happen to produce something in return. The eggs are a bonus. We do not keep our chickens for use of any kind, even for the eggs. They are simply our pets.

We feed our chickens organic chicken feed, which is double the cost of regular feed. Once a month we drive to Atglen to Organics Unlimited and pick up a 50# sack. Another expense to be factored in is the construction and building of our chicken coop. If keeping chickens was about the eggs, it would be a lot cheaper to buy them from the store. At the end of everything, keeping our chickens is about enjoying them, as our pets, not for the eggs. The cost of keeping chickens by far outweighs the cost of eggs.

Our chicken coop stays very clean and we clean it out with fresh hay once a week. We occasionally let them out in our fenced back yard to graze, eat bugs, and stretch their wings. Our chickens do not leave our fenced property. Again, we do not have a rooster, and our hens make less noise than the birds in the trees. They do not smell and are very clean.

On page 27-94 of the zoning ordinance, under agricultural, horticultural, and forestry standards it states that in an R-2 zone:

agricultural, horticultural, and forestry uses MAY be permitted subject to the following: Minimum Lot Area: Ten acres.

The above listing regarding agricultural uses includes: the tilling of the soil, the raising of crops, forestry, horticulture and gardening including the keeping or raising of livestock such as cattle, cows, hogs, horses, sheep, goats, poultry, rabbits, birds, fish, bees, and other similar animals.

If taken literally, without considering legislative intent, this ordinance states that one living in Valley Township can not raise poultry, if they have less than a 10 acre lot, and it also states that one cannot even have a garden or raise any crops, let alone till the soil to plant a tree. Every house with less than 10 acres, located in Valley Township has a garden of some form.

All laws are to be used solely for the purpose for which they were intended to be used when they were created. This law was not created to prevent anyone from having a backyard garden and growing their own vegetables, nor was it created to prevent a small flock of backyard chickens or rabbits as pets. In citing us, the township is not acting in accordance with the legislative intent of the ordinance. The manner in which the township has otherwise enforced the ordinance (ie. NOT citing property owners for pets, gardens, etc.) supports this case since it sets a precedent of acting in accordance with the legislative intent of the ordinance.

In many townships similar to ours, residents have faced similar challenges as we are experiencing. There is precedence right now concerning these issues and there have been many cases to back this up. For example, in our neighboring East Brandywine Township, chickens and rabbits are considered to be small domestic animals, and are permitted on lots less than 10 acres. Many other townships in Chester County, including city boroughs, permit chickens as backyard pets regardless of the lot size. For example, in the borough of Phoenixville, chickens are permitted in unlimited numbers, including roosters. In the city of Philadelphia chickens are also permitted. Taking this issue to a much larger scale, cities everywhere from Los Angeles, San Francisco, to Chicago and even New York City allow backyard chickens at this point in time. Cities such as Ann Arbor, Michigan; Fort Collins, Colorado; and South Portland, Maine have all voted in the past year to allow residents to raise backyard chickens.

Finally, I would like to share the details of how we got here today. One morning Bill Webb knocked on our front door. When I answered, he asked if he could take a look out in our backyard. I was kind of thrown off guard as to what we could possibly be doing wrong and I asked “Can I ask what for?”. He said that a neighbor had complained about our chickens. He said that they reported that no one was taking care of them. I was really surprised, since we take impeccable care of our chickens, and I told him he was more then welcome to come take a look. We went out to the coop and I showed him our chickens. I showed him inside the coop. We discussed how there was no smell and how quiet they were. He noted that their coop was “cleaner then most people’s houses”. My oldest came out and told Bill all of the chicken’s names. He said that he didn’t see any problem at all, that he could tell that they were “clearly well taken care of and that they were our pets”, and was sorry to bother me. He said “I don’t see what the problem is.” Bill Webb, township inspector of Valley Township, clearly felt we were not doing anything wrong.

Apparently, after my neighbors were told that there was no seen problem with our chickens, they went above Bill Webb to a board member, still complaining. It was then that we came home to a Cease and Desist letter taped to our front door. Jason went over to our neighbors’ house with the Cease and Desist Order and asked them what the problem was, in which they replied that they didn’t have any problem at all with the chickens. They stated that “they like sitting out on their deck watching the chickens.” I contacted Bill Webb letting him know this, but he said that now we were stuck in the legal process and it couldn’t be changed at this point, even if they were to take back their initial complaints. Although our neighbors were apparently enjoying our chickens, after we got the Cease and Desist Order, we moved our chicken coop to the opposite side of our property, far away from this neighbor’s property. It seems that if the township has no issue and the neighbors have no issue, then there is no issue.

If anyone of you were to come over to our house, you also would see that our chickens are well cared for, clean, and quiet. There is no actual problem here. When a resident makes a complaint, as a part of the township, it is your duty to respond with help. However, in all situations it is very important to look closely to see who is benefitting. There was no problem seen by the codes department. If the township is going to enforce one agricultural aspect and forget about the others, this is unjust. It is the township’s job to consider each situation closely and look into what the “actual” situation is. This ordinance, in referring to agriculture, horticulture, and forestry standards in an R-2 zone does not apply to a small flock of hens or tilling the soil to have a garden.

As a mom and an individual, I feel that it is very important to stand up for yourself and what you believe. It was really a challenge to come up with $500 to file our appeal. However, I wanted to show my children that even though sometimes people see something wrong with the way you are doing things, you should always try your hardest to reach out and communicate clearly to work out a situation in a way that works for, and makes sense to, everybody. I want them to see that the law is actually there to help people, not take away their freedom unnecessarily.

It is our hope, especially that of our children, that you reconsider this case. We are not in violation of any law, since the ordinances that we have been given are unclear and there is nothing that specifically addresses backyard chickens as pets directly. We are in compliance with the current laws. It has been a pleasure to get to know “the system” a little better and a great way for our children to see first hand how it all works. We really appreciate the time everyone has expended in regard to these issues.

{Our court hearing was last Thursday, December 3, 7PM. Sadly, we lost our case. It was a very unjust hearing, which in turn has shaken up some of our township board members. We are going to a board meeting next Tuesday to request until the summer to find a new “home” for our chickens. Until then I am going to be working to change the law so that we will be allowed to have chickens. It’s going to take some time and effort, but it will also be standing up for a change. I wanted to share my speech/argument, that I am very proud of. This is what I read as my argument since I was representing myself. It may be used by anyone needing some literature on backyard chickens.}

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