It started last spring at the end of school and it all began with a simple question we asked our Mom and Dad…”Could we get chickens?” It made sense because we already hatched many birds before, and we wanted some of our own. So we went to city hall to see if it was okay, we assumed it would be because a few people already had chickens in their own backyard, but it turned out, we couldn’t. There was an ordinance against it, so we decided to begin a Civics Project and began ‘hatching’ a plan for action – we were hoping to change that ordinance!
Month 1 and 2. First we did a whole lot of research on other ordinances in towns near us and across the State of Michigan. We took a closer look at chicken behavior and population density in the cities that allowed backyard chickens to create a suggested ordinance. We learned that most towns have renewable 1 year permits with restrictions on roosters, locations and how many hens you could keep. We wrote a suggested ordinance to bring to our fair city of Douglas for consideration in addition to a petition we had residence who were in support of it sign. That took us to about June.
Month 3. I think it was July when it was presented to the City Council. They moved it on for input and a vote from the Planning Commission. Now, there’s something worth noting about these meetings. They start at 7:00 at night. The room has 56 chairs in total, and the process and people are very formal during their chats about life in the city of Douglas. An interesting fact: The City of Douglas is legally called “The City of the Village of Douglas”. Hmmm. Not super catchy, but it gives us advantages of a city but can still call ourselves a village.
Month 4, 5, 6 & 7. By now, we’ve gone to every Planning Commission meeting and we’ve observed a lot! Each month we went, we thought – “this is IT – a final draft will be voted on”! But then there were more changes. More discussion. More questions. How many feet from a neighbors house should they be allowed? How many hens are too many? What about disease? Maybe neighbors should be allowed to reject someone next to them getting the little feathered ladies. What about predators? The questions went on and on. Lisa, the zoning administrator rewrote the ordinance each month adding and subtracting restrictions as the meetings came and went. Respect Lisa, respect!
Month 8. III’m dreaming of a… brown christmas. Still not approved but at least this idea was still moving along. More details worked out, more restrictions added. The problem was, at this point, we no longer qualified to have chickens on our property!! With a deep sigh and a feeling of defeat, Mom went to that meeting alone to say thank you for all the hard work, but that there were so many restrictions, (even though we live on over an acre and a half of land!), there was nowhere to put a coop without violating the rules the Planning Commission put in place. I guess it was then that members of the Commission decided that it was too restrictive and amended the restriction of ‘backyard’ to allowing them in the ‘side yard’ in certain conditions. One more change for Lisa, and we were back in the chicken game! We’re beginning to learn just how long it can take to change a law, and now we’ve gotten glimpse into an average adult’s life. Also, respect.
Months 9 & 10. Welcome to January 2018! Well, they did it! After the Planning Commission’s final vote to recommend passed 4 in favor, 3 not, it was sent straight back to City Council where they made a few minor changes and then was voted on, (drum roll please!) they all said yes and no objections! YEESSS!!!!!!! We were so excited we danced right out the door, laid in the freezing snow in the middle of the sidewalk crying and laughing! Now it’s February and we will be able to get the very first permit as soon as it is drafted!!! We decided on hatching Bantams, mini versions of regular chickens and our friend Eddie has gifted us his old chicken coop. AAAAAH!! SOOOO HAPPY!!!!
Okay, so here’s the review. It took a total of 11 months and still counting, Olive and I are each one year older, the ordinance is FOUR pages long and it’s a one year trial, with a maximum of 5 permits granted. The planning commission gained a new person, we got a new Mayor (with cool hair and an upbeat personality!). But as an experience, we thought it was certinly our longest ongoing project but one of the best for sure! We promise to give y’all an update when we got the whole set up rolling but in the meantime, a Mt. Everest sized thank you to Lisa, the Planning Commission and the City Council for all their effort in making it possible for new feathered friends to be part of our family!!
We’ll take you on our many adventures to come. Stay tuned!