GLENS FALLS — Some residents are squawking about foul odors they say would make life unbearable if the Common Council allows people to own chickens.
“What’s next? Elephants?” said Brian Bickford on Tuesday. “Chickens eat their own crap. They stink. They spread disease,” he said.
Bickford said he believes it is absurd for the council to be considering this.
“If you want to raise chickens, buy a farm,” he said.
Bickford was one of the residents who came out to speak at the Common Council meeting and then continued the discussion at the Building and Codes Committee meeting afterward.
Resident Joy Muller-McCoola came to the council wearing a wool hat in the shape of a chicken. She pointed out that cities such as New York City, Boston and Montreal allow people to own chickens and do not seem to have any problems. Chickens are also beneficial because they eat ticks.
While she does not want to own them, she thinks anybody who wants to should be allowed to have them.
“I think it’s less intrusive than the guy with 12 cats,” she said.
Sheila Duggan of 23 Sanford St. said she is worried that people will not clean up after their chickens.
“Excrement of the chickens is quite ‘fowl,’ excuse the pun,” she said.
Roseann Putnam said her grandfather had chickens until she was about 10 and the odor was horrendous.
“I still have it in my brain,” she said.
She believes the matter should be put to a vote of the public.
City Clerk Robert Curtis said a public vote is not possible, as a change to the city code is not something municipal law says can be put to a referendum.
10-year-old Fiona Poole said she used to live in Chicago and the family had considered getting chickens. She believes it is a good idea.
“Chickens eat ticks, and that’s one of the main problems in Glens Falls. They also eat mosquitoes and unwanted bugs that are in people’s gardens,” she said.
Councilwoman Diana Palmer stressed that the city has not made any decisions. If it did want to allow chickens, officials would do some type of yearly permitting system and cap the number of permits. Also, if somebody were cited for two violations, they would not be able to get their permit renewed.
Curtis shared some research from other communities that allow chickens. He said that the number of permits sought has been a very tiny percentage of residents in these communities. For example, New Paltz revised its code in 2014 to allow chickens, and since then, no one registered to raise chickens in the village.
Curtis said he spoke with an official from Rensselaer about its program. It began allowing residents to raise chickens in 2011 and five or six people had obtained permits.
“Most of the individuals stopped raising chickens after about a year or so. He considered it a passing fad,” he said.
Ithaca launched a two-year pilot program that will soon be reviewed, according to Curtis. It allows up to 30 permits to be issued, and currently there are less than 20. People must complete a course in raising chickens at Cornell Cooperative Extension.
Resident Anna Duggan said she has been dealing with a situation where her neighbor had 15 bird feeders. She is inundated with squawking birds all day long, and there are droppings everywhere. The feeders attract skunks, chipmunks, squirrels and other animals.
“No neighbor should have to go through what I’ve gone through,” she said.
The Common Council on Tuesday voted to declare the property at 91 Prospect St. a public health nuisance.
People in favor of the chicken plan pointed out that dogs make noise, too, and asked whether the city should get rid of them.
Curtis said they are domestic animals.
Palmer asked if the people against the proposal would be more amenable if the city had the permitting system and required people to take a class. She wondered if people would go through all that if they were not serious about taking care of chickens.
“I think we’re taking a lot of steps to try to address the concerns of people,” she said.
The committee is going to continue its work and not rush into any decisions, according to Palmer.
Palmer said she does not want the chicken debate to overshadow the other work the Building and Codes Committee is doing.
The city is in the process of redesigning its website. Palmer said the city is looking to add a feature in which people can report concerns. City officials also would like to put information on its website about code violation complaints that are investigated.
“I think this would alleviate some concerns when people feel that nobody has acted on our calls,” she said.
Code Enforcement Officer John Ward reported that his staff is receiving training on using tablets in the field, which will make it easier to document complaints and take pictures. That information will be relayed automatically to the department’s software program.
“This system will make it a lot more convenient for us,” he said.
The Building and Codes Committee will continue the chicken discussion on July 10 at 6:30 p.m.