In light of Buffalo residents Blair Woods and Monique Watts having their hens declared illegal in the City of Buffalo, Corporation Council, Alisa Lukasiewicz has given herself a crash course in urban chicken farming, and not just as it relates to Buffalo. "[Keeping hens] is a huge movement across the nation and in many cities," Lukasiewicz said. "There's value in it." She directs us to the sight Green Options.
It's only been 5 years that chickens in residential neighborhoods have been outlawed in Buffalo, and Lukasiewicz guesses that it was probably a matter of chicken fights that, in 2004, caused Councilmember Richard Fontana to sponsor the resolution that resulted in law 341-11, making harboring fowl within the city limits a crime.
"And, yes," Lukasiewicz said, "You can have a cow." Though she said the law pertaining to chickens could be turned around, Lukasiewicz was hesitant to say how long it might take. "It all depends on how fast the council considers this," she said. "Generally there have been issues of illness, noise, and proximity to other houses, but this [urban chicken] movement is taking hold."
She read some of the text from the online site aloud: "It's no longer something kinky or interesting," Jac Smit, president of the Urban Agriculture Network, tells Worldwatch writer Ben Block. "The 'chicken underground' has really spread so widely and has so much support."
Watts has moved the chickens for now, as stated in the comment section of yesterday's story.
Councilmember Fontana was not in his office today, but Council President David Franczyk made note of last week's council meeting in which the issue of having fowl at the slaughterhouse on William Street was looked at. "The zoning board says the slaughterhouse is allowed to have fowl, but that was a slaughterhouse when I was a kid, so it's already zoned for that."
The distinction for now on the zoning books is one of residential vs. commercial, and fowl for meat versus pets with benefits, such as Woods' and Watts' hens. Councilmember David Rivera is working closely with the couple now. All else aside, Rivera must certainly recognize Watts and Woods as having raised the bar on quality of life in their community through their efforts, both residential and with the advent of Urban Roots Garden Center. It shouldn't be hard to bring the rest of council up to speed.
As for chickens in the city, "We'll look into it," Franczyk said. He is also aware of the growing trend.
We didn't get ahold of UB's Dr. Samina Raja today, but we're pretty sure what the proponent of attainable and sustainable urban nutrition would have to say about a couple's chickens being forced out of their backyard coop. We expect Raja, of the School of Architecture and Planning, who has gotten her students involved in community gardening on the planning level, would institute a course that would facilitate ownership of urban chickens--maybe even design and build a few coops along the way.
First, we need to get that law changed.