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Gwen Baile Wants to Bring Her Chickens Home to Roost, Literally

The Sustainable Haddon Township leader wants to amend a township ordinance prohibiting roosting of chickens at homes.

It's a simple proposition for Gwen Baile.

The local leader of the Sustainable Haddon Township, a state certification program for municipalities that want to go green, wants to amend a local ordinance that does not allow residents to keep, stable, breed or quarter any livestock or fowl.

One interesting exception in the ordinance allows residents to quarter a female goat with a note from a doctor that the milk is needed for good health. Strange, but true.

Baile doesn't want a goat, but she does want a few chickens.

"People in generally are much more interested in knowing where their food is coming from," Baile said. "We're always reading about salmonella in this and E. coli in that, a lot of people really want more control. That's why the organic food movement is growing."

Baile has asked the township commissioners to change the local law to allow a small flock of chickens for residents who apply for a permit and submit to township inspections to ensure proper sanitation. Mayor Randy Teague said the matter is being considered by the township environmental committee.

"Some people don't want it because of the noise and because they think it's not clean," said Teague, an attorney by profession. "Whatever the environmental committee recommends, we'll get public input on it. I don't know how I feel about it right now, but I'm willing to change with the times, if appropriate."

Baile said she knows some of her neighbors in the unit block of Hampton Road may have concerns. But she promised to give them eggs to smooth things over.

"There are slobs who just don't cut their grass and have trash all over their property," she said. "To me, that's much worse."

Baile said roosters would still not be allowed under her proposal. Roosters, male chickens, make the most noise of barnyard fowl. Their decibel-shattering morning squeal can wake the deepest sleeper. 

"You only need roosters if you want to hatch baby chickens," she said.

The neighboring towns of Haddonfield and Collingswood also prohibit quartering chickens and barnyard animals. But an 8-year-old in Collingswood boy petitioned the borough commissioners there in 2011 to change the law to allow small flocks of chickens.

"Would it not be wonderful to go outside and get fresh eggs in the morning for breakfast?" Erich Gittler asked during a Collingswood commissioners meeting in August 2011. "The law prohibiting chickens is just outdated and unnecessary. Also, for people who have gardens, they (chickens) would be useful. You could use their dung as fertilizer—and chickens eat insects that are harmful to plants. Also, chickens are as clean—and not as smelly—as dogs or cats, if properly bathed."

But even the charm of an 8-year-old couldn't turn the tide. His request was denied.

Joe October 26, 2012 at 11:17 AM
It's a great idea. Fresh eggs.
Jonathan Chapman October 26, 2012 at 01:14 PM
Problem with this is, no one wants the roosters so they brutally killed as young chicks in these schemes. Like everything else it's an imperfect solution so I'm not ready to rush to overturn this ordinance.
Dawn October 26, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Not a good idea. Most folks have no idea how to properly keep chickens, keep them free from disease (they are sensitive animals and do get sick quite easily if not kept properly) or what to do with them after they are not producing eggs anymore (typically after 2-3 years) as they have a very long lifespan (again, if kept properly). They also need to be protected from winter weather in our region. Folks can source local, organic eggs if that is what they want--not raise chickens themselves.

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