Chicken ordinance pros and cons flutter around, some cry fowl

By Coleen Burnett
Eatontown — A hot-button issue continued at the Eatontown Council meeting May 10 — the so-called “chicken ordinance” was front and center once again.
Currently no chickens are allowed in the borough.  Some residents received notices last year that they were keeping them illegally, sparking a movement to put together an ordinance to allow such animals. The proposal ended up being voted down by the Borough Council.

The newest proposal, first broached in February of this year, contains a series of checks and balances that virtually guarantee that only those who are very serious about raising chickens even attempt the project.

For starters, there is a $25 permit fee, payable to the Zoning Board. There are limits on lot size. No roosters are allowed. No condo or mobile home owners will be allowed to have the chickens — only lots in single family residential areas.

All electrical hookups must be underground, to prevent extension cords from running to a coop via a hookup from the house. No chickens can be slaughtered on a homeowner’s property — they must be humanely removed.  Should a chicken owner sell his property, the subsequent homeowner cannot be grandfathered in;  should the new owner want chickens, the process must begin anew.

Those are just a few of the restrictions. Mayor Dennis Connelly, for one, said he’s become an expert on the feathered bird.

“I will say I have learned more about chickens than I ever thought I could… I don’t think that anyone who wants to raise chickens in our town is a bad person. There’s probably a lot of good people who want to do something nice with this ordinance, but it’s actually a very disgusting thing how chickens are raised in this country.”

He is still not convinced that the ordinance is a good idea. “Every time I look at it and review it, I find more and more issues that I didn’t know about,” he said.

The mayor was concerned about the time, attention and money pressures that the ordinance will put on Animal Control, Zoning, and the police department, adding that the $25 fee will not even begin to cover the expense.  He drew on his own experiences as a former patrolman in the borough.

“When it starts to be something that would affect a neighborhood, that’s a problem,” he said.

As a final caution, he shared his concern that even if the ordinance is voted in, there will be a small group that will choose to ignore the rules.

“Some people will follow, and some others won’t. The people that don’t follow it mess it up for the rest of us,” he said.
Then it was the public’s turn.

One woman said the complaints would never stop. “If my neighbors kept chickens, my dog is gonna go crazy. I don’t know how this is going to be monitored and how it will be enforced because when it was illegal, people still had them. So now what will happen when people can have chickens?”

Councilwoman Virginia East, who helped craft the ordinance, said there would not be a huge run to make the birds the latest Eatontown house pet.

“With all the things that are required in this ordinance,  I don’t think people will say, ‘Oh yeah, I can have chickens now.’ It’s a lot of details and work they have to go through to establish the chickens,” she said.

Another resident was not so sure. “Keeping chickens in your yard is a lot more humane than say, getting eggs from a grocery store where you don’t really know what’s happening to those animals,” she said. “We have weathermen who predict the weather and get it wrong almost every time. Making assumptions about how irresponsible the residents will be concerning the chickens is unfair.”

The public hearing is scheduled for June 28.