Over the last few months, I’ve developed a passion for nesting/homesteading rivaled only by a Pentecostal with a snake-bite kit. Everything about being more self-sufficient and environmentally friendly is fascinating. In furthering my desires to move toward a more homesteady life, we have these Plans, see:
- Build chicken house, add fencing and install chickens
- Make garden plot ready and install seeds
- Learn All This Sewing Stuff
The actual list is quite substantially longer, but those are the top items. Notice the chickens are at the top of the list? They totally are. I’ve been stoked about chickens for a couple of years now, and have been anxiously awaiting this coming spring to get some. I’ve consumed enough information about chickens in the last month to require my hat size to go up a few notches, I reckon. So excited about the chickens.
As I gazed contemplatively out to the back yard, plotting how much space to allocate to the chickens, and how much to the garden, I realized More Is Better in nearly every way. The space allotted to each of those two areas means less mowing and maintaining for us – yay! Fencing designs and anti-predator schemes filled my head.
Mike Neir and I live on a quiet rural 2-acre parcel of land. Two doors down is a good-sized farm, complete with roosters, chickens, goats and a token llama. While there are neighbors all around us, we’re not right on top of each other by any means at all. Here’s our back yard:
Williamston itself is by no means a bustling metropolis; there are an estimated 4,000 people within its confines. This is the busy, busy downtown thoroughfare:
Many of its residents are farmers of one flavor or another. Surely, if anywhere will allow the general owning of chickens, it would be Williamston. And, after all, we have the two acres. It’s zoned Rural Residential. Just to cross my t’s and dot my i’s, I called Williamston Township Hall today, so I had done my due diligence in terms of making sure there were no anti-chicken ordinances in place. Of course, there wouldn’t be – there’s a farm I can reach out and touch. The farm is behind these trees:
“Hello, my name is Erin, and I’m calling because we’re planning on setting up a small egg-laying chicken flock, and wanted to make sure we don’t accidentally bump into any ordinances while we’re doing so.”
She asked for my address and said, “Let’s see, two acres, rural residential… oh, oh dear, yes, you will.”
“You’re not allowed any livestock on that parcel, I’m so sorry.”
“…what? There’s a farm practically next door! People in downtown Ann Arbor and Mason are allowed chickens in their back yard. Seriously?”
“Yes, that’s covered by Article 13. It’s actually coming up for review soon, and I can make note that you called and were interested in this.”
“Soon, as in days, weeks, months? Years?”
“Oh, probably months. We’re on Article 8 now, so it’ll be awhile.”
I was stunned, completely shocked. All of my chicken fantasies crumbled around me in the blink of an eye.
You have got to be kidding me.
Well. As some of you know, I’m not one to simply take things I don’t want to hear as stated without some justification or backing. I ask questions, look for answers and if I can’t get the answer I want, I surely do want to understand the answer I get.
Surfing the limited Williamston Township website, I signed up for their email list, emailed the Township Supervisor to plead my case, and then found the Zoning Regulations online.
Aha, you sunsabitches.
Now, I could be reading something wrong here, missing a subtle nuance or cross-reference, but everything I’m reading in Articles 13, 8 and 11 seem to point to 20 or less chickens being Just Fine. Tomorrow, I am going to march into that township hall armed with these passages:
“Principal Uses and Structures
In all areas zoned RR, Rural Residential District, no building shall be erected, used, or structurally altered, nor shall the land or premises be used in whole or in part, except for one or more of the following principal permitted uses:
1. One family detached dwellings.
2. Generalized and specialized farming and other activities related to the definition of “farm” in Section 1.03, subject to the provisions in Section 8.02, sub-section N.”
Ok, let’s proceed to 1.03, “farm,” defined:
“FARM ANIMALS: Animals used for human food and fiber or animals used for service to humans, including cattle, swine, sheep, llamas, goats, bison, equine, poultry, and rabbits. Farm animals do not include companion animals, such as dogs and cats, that are capable of being trained and
adapting to living in a human environment. (revised 3/6/01)
“FARM BUILDINGS: Any building or structure other than a dwelling, which is constructed, maintained, and used on a farm, and which is essential and customarily used for the agricultural operations carried on that type of farm.”
Right then, carry on to 8.02, sub-section N:
“2. Minimum Size
The minimum size for a farm shall be ten (10) acres, except that feedlots and commercial livestock operations shall have at least forty (40) acres. Farm animals may be kept on parcels that are less than ten (10) acres provided that: (revised 2/3/98, revised 3/6/01)
a. The farm animals are not being kept or used for commercial farming; [CHECK]
b. In platted subdivisions or condominiums, farm animals may not be kept on parcels less than five (5) acres in size; and [Uhh, not sure]
c. Compliance with all other requirements set forth herein shall be required (including animal density requirements). (revised 3/6/01)” [I believe “check”]
The only thing I can see causing a problem here is “platted subdivisions;” I’m not yet sure what that might be, but it would seem to imply a self-contained subdivisional unit. Does this area look like that to you? The green arrow is us:
“9. Animal Density in RR, RE, and AG-SF Districts
Animal density in the RR, RE, and AG-SF districts shall not exceed the following standards:
a. No more than ten (10) fowl shall be permitted per acre.” [CHECK]
I’ll be perfectly sweet and polite and kind and gentle when I go in with these neatly tucked under my arm, and I will ask them to please explain to me the answer they gave me today. It may well be the woman I talked to didn’t have the right information, and it may well be I don’t have it. I need to figure that out, and pronto, because if that’s the case, well. Sorry, Mike Neir, but we’ll have to move.