There may still be a lot of clucking when Gloucester's Board of Health holds a Dec. 4 hearing on a draft plan to sock residents who keep and raise chickens with a set of fees and limits.
But the fact that even the city councilor who initially raised Gloucester's great chicken flap now sees no need for the guidelines as drafted should go a long way toward convincing city officials in general to keep any such ordinance off the table.
That councilor, Ward 2's Melissa Cox, still holds that there should be some type of ordinance to address chicken-related concerns over noise and other issues that can ruffle neighbors' feathers. But it's hard to believe those concerns can't be handled through the city's existing nuisance ordinances — or perhaps through zoning guidelines that could set some space limitations and/or standards for fowl play.
Yet Gloucester's draft proposal, developed with the Board of Health after Cox fielded complaints regarding an apparently noisy, small flock on Perkins Street, would cross far too many lines. The proposal has called for charging a $25 permit fee to any resident keeping chickens or other fowl, it would ban roosters altogether, and it would limit any and all residents — in all parts of town — to just six fowl, and it has rightfully sparked several cries of foul.
According to the Board of Health's meeting minutes from Oct. 2, Cox told the board at that time that she supported the regulations that the board was proposing.
“She stated that it has become a nuisance in the city and she has received many complaints about the smell and the noise coming from the homes of residents who have chicken coops,” the minutes indicate.
But since some 100 residents showed up to squawk at a Nov. 6 Board of Health hearing, Cox has changed her tune a bit, indicating now that “I’m not saying there needs to be a regulation,” and adding that, if there is to be any such ordinance, it should not be “to the extent of what was presented.”
Cox's backing off any push for an ordinance should help keep her and other city officials from having egg on their faces. It also just makes good common sense.
OK, chickens have blessed us with far too many literary puns. But backyard chickens give us something else.
They effortlessly solve many of the backyard bug problems that we hapless humans think we need pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers to fix. They'll eat the green peas and whatever else your kids left on the dinner plate. They even help to mow the lawn. And in exchange, they'll provide you with nutritious, best-tasting eggs at low cost.
As we noted previously, these are times of increased nutrition awareness and self-sufficiency. Cities and towns should be encouraging — not discouraging — those who raise their own food. That means whether they're doing so as backyard vegetable growers — or through eggs from the backyard chicken coop.
The loss of Cox's support should now mean this proposal has virtually no support at all.
Let's nip it in the bud, and get on tackling Gloucester's real issues of the day.