As Kingstonians fowl up, code officer Madsen seeks clarity

A potential clash between the burgeoning urban agriculture movement and city law governing small livestock has prompted Kingston’s zoning code enforcement officer to call on the Common Council to clarify existing regulations.

“Let’s just say there’s been a flock of people asking about chickens for a long time,” said Mike Madsen, a former alderman and county lawmaker who was recently appointed Kingston’s zoning code enforcement officer.

In a communication to the Common Council, Madsen wrote that his reading of the city’s zoning code appeared to allow for the keeping of chickens and other small livestock provided that they are kept inside or in “an enclosed yard or other enclosure suitable for the sanitary confinement of such animal or fowl.” But, Madsen said, the language is vague and it is unclear whether the animals were restricted to owner-occupied properties, i.e., could renters keep chickens. Conflicting opinions issued from the Corporation Counsel’s Office over the years provided little guidance, Madsen stated.


Julie Noble, head of Kingston’s Conservation Advisory Council, said the council had taken up the issue back in 2009 and determined that the law, which appeared to permit the keeping of chickens as long as they were not a nuisance to neighbors, was sufficient. But, Noble said, the law had been applied unevenly by different city agencies. Noble said that she would support changes to the zoning code to provide clearer guidelines to Kingston’s chicken-keepers.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea to have some clarification of language in the code where it’s not entirely clear.”

Drive for urban agriculture

The nonprofit open space preservation group Kingston Land Trust, meanwhile is embarking on a project to substantially rework the law, in part to make it clearer. The group’s urban agriculture committee plans to present legislation to the Conservation Advisory Council, which will pass on its recommendation to the Common Council. Rebecca Martin, executive director of the Kingston Land Trust said that effort, which is just getting under way, could take a year or more. Martin said the group would first seek to educate the public and elected officials about the benefits of urban agriculture as it pertains to all sorts of small livestock. The end result, she hoped would be actual legislation.

Slideshow photo by Dan Barton.

There are 4 comments

  1. Michelle

    Vermin, noise, and stench are only the tip of the iceberg. Dogs and cats wanting to get the chickens, chickens escaping into urban streets… way too many opportunities for conflict and contempt between neighbors, which this city does not need. I once had a neighbor threaten to kill my cat because she was sitting under my neighbor’s bird feeder, in a less urban and much less angry place than Kingston. I agree with Senor on little, but a “nightmare,” he is right. Kingston’s resources are already stretched thin and not keeping up with our needs for a safe, clean place to live. We can’t afford this little experiment.

  2. gberke

    For one, I think it quite delightful that the Kingston Times reports real news, real community and city news that we can use.

    For another, yeah, I would suppose proper care of a couple of chickens will be fine. But that will depend on KIngston citizens following their new governments lead in moving away from contentious, “can’t do”, “my rights over every one else’s” and a rather pugialistic attitude between some “neighbors”…

    There will always be a couple of places where law is pushed too hard, where nerves get scraped, but that be must expected and tolerated: it will not be eradicated and giving up the glories of small city living because a few can live well together, that’s not a solution I would prefer. There are currently bunnies and chickens and ducks and yard sales and gardens and small shops and a mite too many cats from place but by and large it works and will be working even better.

    If we do have a lot of chickens, we’re going to need a “chicken drop”, when one hopes to exist the chicken trade, no questions asked. I do hope that we might be able to dine on a few and not save them all…. And we have the Land Trust to give us all tons of help and information.

  3. gberke

    Having your kitty parked for lunch under another persons bird feeder… that’s not nice. Put a bell on that cat at the very least? Get your own bird feeder? or from the other side, get a dog that doesn’t like cats, fence out the cat, put out a have a heart trap for the cat?

  4. Christopher

    Alderman Senor says “I used to clean chicken farms and it’s the worst smell there is. If you don’t stay on top of it, it’s going to be a nightmare for a neighborhood.”

    I think he’s mistaking whatever industrial chicken factory farm he used to work for with the micro-scale sustainable techniques of the current urban farmers. Using methods popularized by agrarians like Joel Salatin, raising chickens is not only a cleaner endeavor, but actually enriches the soil where they are raised.

    Raising a few chickens should be a non-issue. We all have a right to produce our own food.

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