"Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral" - Frank Lloyd Wright
Following email sent to BRO from West Side activist Blair Woods:
Some of you know me. My wife, Monique Watts, and I are 19-year residents/homeowners on Rhode Island Street. We were young, naive and hopeful as 26-year-olds twenty years ago, and have watched our neighborhood deteriorate beyond our wildest dreams, at the same time, hoping against hope and throwing caution to the wind and working as hard as we can to try to make it better.
In the past 5 years, we have purchased 2 empty lots and a vacant house on our block (we bought the house to keep it away from absentee landlords. I have put $15,000 into it and would gladly sell it for $10,000 to a homeowner. It is still vacant, but I pay the garbage fee and the landlord licensing fee and every other damn fee the City deems necessary); we have planted community gardens in the vacant lots and paid city taxes on everything. We are founders of Urban Roots Garden Center, which has created jobs and kept city dollars from going out to the suburbs, and displaced a lot of drug dealers from the corner of Rhode Island, Brayton and West Utica Streets. I paint graffiti, I mow vacant lots - even some that are city-owned. I could go on and on. Hopefully you get the picture.
Last spring, my wife decided she wanted hens for eggs and pets. She researched city code and found that they were legal. She built a coop in our back yard, did tons of research - for instance, chickens eat slugs and mosquitos and other pest insects and bugs and their manure is excellent fertilizer for gardens, and hens are legal in hundreds of urban centers in the United States, including New York City - and got 5 hens in July 2008. In September 2008, an architect-friend told us he thought they were illegal in Buffalo, and sure enough, there is a 2004 amendment to the charter or city code that makes hens illegal. (She was looking at an older version.) But, for her, it was too late, so she went about her business, knowing there are a LOT of others in the city with hens. Ask the guys who own Elmwood Pet Supply how much chicken feed they sell.
This past Saturday morning, at 9 am, prompted by an anonymous 911 call, a City of Buffalo Animal Control Officer showed up on our doorstep, demanding our chickens.
Now, I have drug dealers on every corner within a 10 block radius of my house, and have trouble getting police to respond when my life is threatened by those drug dealers. But when someone calls 911 about pet chickens, the City sure doesn't waste any time. My wife was spit upon by the Animal Control Officer and given 24 hours to get rid of the chickens.
Later in the day, Kelly McCartney at the Buffalo Animal Shelter gave my wife an extra day - till Monday - to get rid of the chickens.
My wife is apoplectic about this, and we had already been considering walking away from the City of Buffalo. Mark my words - this will be the last straw. We will walk away from our houses and our empty lots. We won't even wait for them to sell.
I urge someone in City Hall to promptly research why the law was amended in 2004. I would also like to know what penalty is incurred for having female chickens on personal residences, and what rights Animal Control has confiscating these animals. And I want the Common Council to rescind the ban on hens. Taste one of my wife's chicken's eggs and I guarantee you it'll be the freshest, best egg you've ever had. Hens in backyards is a national trend. Let's get back on board.
I can tell you that we make more money than it would seem we do living in our neighborhood, and I have deep enough pockets to fight this should any harm come of my wife's chickens. I will be hiring a lawyer Monday morning. Please, someone, help us.