Board adopts law that regulates chicken ownership
TOWN OF ULSTER >> The Town Board has voted to regulate the ownership of chickens in Ulster’s R10 and R30 residential zoning districts.
The 4-0 approval came after a public hearing Thursday. Councilman Eric Kitchen was absent.
The hearing attracted three chicken owners and a chicken supporter in opposition to the law, while support for regulations came from a father and son who live next door to a property where birds are kept.
Chicken owner Frank Ritti was among ardent opponents of the law, contending the Town Board was trying to change a longstanding lifestyle.
“Many people use these livestock as food and bartering commodities,” he said. “Recently, there has been an influx of people moving into the area who don’t like this type of life. ... We shouldn’t change the entire way of life for people who did grow up in these areas and deny them the opportunity to enjoy and benefit from the homesteading of which many of us count on for a source of livelihood.”
Ritti said the regulation would require chicken owners to have a permit for food that they are making for themselves.
A permit, at no cost, will be required to own chickens. Roosters are prohibited, except for those currently owned within the districts.
Resident David Lomasney has been requesting a law be adopted for most of the year after his 3-year-old son was diagnosed with an infection believed to have been caused by bird feces. He contends the illness was brought on by chickens that came near his house from his neighbor’s property.
“I came from a family that had chickens,” he said. “We didn’t let the chickens roam free. We took care of the chickens, they were in pens, it was a lot of work. Chickens are a lot of work and, if people are taking care of their chickens and handling their business, there’s no problems.”
The regulations call for chickens to be kept in a pen or enclosure at all times, stating: “The pen must be resistant to rodents and to predators and provide chickens with adequate protection from inclement wether. The pen or enclosure is to be constructed of materials that are reasonable complementary to existing structures within the viewshed of the pen or enclosure in order to forestall complaints by neighbors or persons within the viewing vicinity.”
Efforts to adopt a law governing ownership of chickens began last year after residents in the Ulster hamlet of East Kingston complained about birds coming onto their property. The Town Board declined to act at that time, after hearing objections from chicken owners, but new complaints in a different neighborhood brought the issue back for a second public hearing with a version of the law that included permit fees.
Ulster officials said the version hat was subject to the third public hearing and, then, adopted was drafted from state law in an effort to make it less vulnerable to legal challenges.
Town Supervisor James Quigley said the law was needed because neighbors have been unable to resolve their differences.
“The town [couldn’t] do anything other than to show up at your house and ask you politely to keep your chickens in your yard,” he said. “That is what this law is designed to try to address ... to give the town some authority over chickens so that, when we show up because your chickens are loose ...there will be an obligation on your part to comply.”