There are a lot worse things to have next door than a few chickens, especially when their coop fits right in to their tony Snyder neighborhood.
The Amherst Zoning Board finds itself grappling with the question of whether to allow a family to keep a few chickens on its property – and inside what looks like an elaborate children’s playhouse. The topic has created quite an uproar in town.
In days gone by, families kept chickens so they would have eggs and the occasional meal. Lately the chickens are making a comeback as urban and suburban areas are becoming more accepting of small flocks of chickens.
Buffalo recently went through its own spirited debate on the issue and finally settled on acceptable regulations that allow chickens. That is the case with several other communities in this area, including North Tonawanda and East Aurora.
Amherst seemingly had settled the issue when the Town Board created a special permit allowing chickens as long as there were no objections from neighbors.
That is, it seemed settled until a family actually came forward seeking a permit to house a few chickens.
Brooks Anderson and his daughter, Amelia, 6, thought they had all their i’s dotted and t’s crossed when they began their chicken project. Anderson built a luxury coop for the family chickens. The structure has painted trim, planted shrubs and small flower boxes.
It’s where Fluffy, Waffle, Fred, Ruby, Snooki and JWoww, the chickens young Amelia has been raising for a few months, would live. Anderson didn’t think there would be a problem. His nearest neighbors raised no objections. But two residents on the street did object, and the Zoning Board turned down the Andersons’ request.
Leading up to the Zoning Board decision, Anderson did everything he could to attend to concerns over noise and odors. His detailed application for a permit was deemed a model for other would-be chicken owners to use.
“Some people were concerned that if you have chickens, then you’re going to have to allow pot-bellied pigs, and you’re going to have cows in your backyard that need milking every day,” Council Member Steven Sanders said. The way to prevent that is to make it clear that the permits are for chickens only.
Towns that have ended up approving chickens have capped the number of birds at fewer than 10, with roosters outlawed because of the noise they make.
That this issue has drawn comparisons to the controversial Hyatt Place Hotel project is no surprise. Council Member Mark A. Manna pointed out that the Zoning Board rejected chickens after rolling out the red carpet for a hotel that is way out of scale with the rest of the neighborhood.
After the permit rejection kicked up a fuss, the Zoning Board said it will reconsider the application next month. That was the right thing to do, and absent specific objections that can’t be dealt with by Anderson, the family should get its poultry permit.
Just a few chickens kept by a generous owner can produce enough eggs to turn doubtful neighbors into believers. With proper regulation, there is no reason chickens can’t be integrated into everyday life in the suburbs.