North Huntingdon chicken ordinance has potential to ruffle feathers
Aaron McGregor is determined to teach his child about a sustainable lifestyle and from where exactly food is derived.
“I want to teach my child that eggs come from a chicken instead of a Styrofoam box at the grocery store,” he said. “My interest is teaching my child, as well as being able to produce my own food and living off my small piece of property.”
McGregor, 42, of North Huntingdon, spearheaded the Norwin Poultry Society group to post updates regarding the township's potential ordinance to regulate domestic chickens. The township's planning commission met last week to discuss the measure.
Commission members tweaked recommendations and asked the draft be reviewed by a chicken specialist from the Penn State Extension before a vote is taken, which could happen as soon as its next meeting on Aug. 26.
“The way I view it, it seems like there's progress coming along, and the planning commission had to really scrutinize everything, and I think this is just part of making sure this ordinance is going to benefit the greater community of North Huntingdon,” he said. “I think it has real possibility of happening.”
McGregor said he did not grow up around chickens, but his interest was piqued as he began reading about how to care for them. He and his wife already maintain a small vegetable garden in their backyard that they hope to fertilize with chicken manure, if the ordinance passes.
“This is how it was done 100 years ago,” McGregor said. “I think that's sort of a beautiful thing. Having the entire yard as part of the small ecosystem is really interesting to me.”
There is no count of the number of municipalities that regulate backyard chickens in Pennsylvania, but there has been an uptick over the past five years, said Phillip Clauer, a senior instructor specializing in poultry programs at the Westmoreland County Penn State Extension.
“It has slowed down over the past year in most areas,” he said. “It really depends on the local officials. This movement has come and gone for years. I remember this being (popular) in the late '70s and early '80s, as well.”
Currently in North Huntingdon, only property owners with at least 10 acres can have chickens. The township has received four or five requests for backyard chickens on smaller properties, said Andrew Blenko, planning director and engineer.
“I cannot minimize the extra staff time that I feel will be needed to enforce this ordinance and respond to complaints from aggrieved neighbors. Nonetheless, domestic chickens (are) very much in vogue right now, and the township commissioners have asked for guidance on an ordinance allowing this practice,” he said.
Blenko recently attended an online workshop to learn from specialists about how to care for backyard chickens — as well as how other municipalities wrote and enforce their ordinances.
From that workshop, Blenko said, he was able to make recommendations for the township's draft ordinance. Among his recommendations — keeping coops on a concrete slab or up in the air and constructing a gate to keep chickens contained and protected.
“If they're in a wooden frame on the ground, you will end up with vermin and things living under the frame, and they'll come out for the chicken feed and then go back where they live,” he said. “So that's what I thought was a very good suggestion. Whatever you build doesn't provide an opportunity for vermin to get underneath because that will ultimately become their home.”
Some recommendations, Blenko said, will be difficult to enforce. Those include ensuring the coop is maintained and that chicken noise and odor do not offend neighbors.
“Those are pretty subjective standards,” he said. “I can see a neighbor saying, ‘I smell it,' and a zoning officer saying, ‘I don't smell it.' Who's right, and who's wrong?”
Amanda Dolasinski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Husband of accused drug-dealing teacher faces his own drug, intimidation charges
- Norwin High School health teacher charged with selling heroin
- North Huntingdon commissioners decline to take over Colonial Manor Road
- Icy winter kept Norwin area road crews busy, but not as much as previous one
- State-level uncertainty clouds Norwin budget work
- Company to conduct North Irwin apartment inspections
- Janitor gets $72,500 in Norwin settlement
- Irwin woman pens book for transition to kindergarten
- Norwin, Irwin, North Huntingdon challengers line up for primary