Some Local Governments Are Still Punishing People for Having a Few Chickens
A Pennsylvania couple is fighting an inane local ban on raising a handful of ducks and chickens in their backyard.
In August, officials in Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, warned residents Anna Wales and Raquel Rogers that they’d have to get rid of the four ducks and four chickens they housed in their backyard. A subsequent hearing affirmed the ban.
Adding to the controversy is the fact Craig West, the borough council president, who lives on the same street as Wales and Rogers, reported the couple and their flocks to the city.
Wellsboro’s poorly written code prohibits keeping honey bees, poisonous reptiles or spiders, or “any live swine or pig, live chicken, turkey, pigeon or other domestic or wild fowl, goats, alpacas, and other species.” The Wellsboro council says it’s concerned that allowing residents to raise livestock in their backyards will lead to complaints over noise or odors.
Wales and Rogers, who’ve already been fined $7,000 for refusing to comply with the chicken ban, are scheduled to have their request for a variance heard before the Wellsboro Borough Council on Wednesday. A court date on the matter has also been scheduled for next week—though the couple’s fines continue to accumulate.
Wales and Rogers are fighting those fines. I don’t blame them. According to a report at NorthCentralPA.com, the couple say they were willing to find a new home for their ducks and chickens. But reports also say West and another councilor urged them to rezone their property so that the council could take action on backyard livestock. So Wales and Rogers say they did just that.
“However, the council then failed to pass a vote allowing birds in rural residential,” the report indicates.
People choose to raise chickens in their backyard, as I explain in my book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable, to provide themselves not just with fresh eggs but also with free fertilizer and pest control. And Wellsboro, quaint and rural, seems like exactly the sort of place one might encounter owners of backyard chickens and ducks.
In fact, just last year the Audubon Society designated Wellsb
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