Michiganders Fighting For Their Backyard Chickens

Despite some hefty changes to statewide laws protecting the right to farm and keep animals, Michiganders aren’t giving up their chickens without a fight. The changes made to the GAAMP (generally accepted agricultural management practices as they pertain to site selection) by a collection of Governor Rick Snyder’s appointees, removed the protections of the Michigan Right To Farm Act from numerous urban farmers, and left the laws pertaining to small scale backyard farms up to local municipalities and Michigan residents in many areas are being proactive.

The effort in Tecumseh may be the one that is garnering the most attention. They are attempting to get the city council to approve an ordinance creating a pilot program that allows for the keeping of backyard chickens at the council meeting on Monday, January 5, at 7:30 p.m. Many residents have attended previous meetings and penned letters to local editors including one who attempted to dispel many common myths associated with backyard chickens.

“Unsure of what your objections are to backyard hen raising, I Googled ‘backyard chicken complaints’ on the Internet. To my surprise, I really couldn’t find any credible drawbacks. The few objections I found seemed to be based on speculation and misinformed fear-mongering. A common thread repeated throughout my Google search was that hen complaints are a ‘non-issue.’ Cities that allow hens have many more complaints about barking dogs and stray cats than backyard chickens by a margin of about 99 to 1.”

Some Michigan communities already allow for backyard chickens, among them Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo, Lansing, Traverse City, and many others. Some place restrictions such as limiting the number of hens allowed to be kept in densely populated residential areas, or disallowing roosters. As Michigan Radio reports, the number of backyard chicken keepers is on the rise.

While some people view chickens as livestock and purely a source of food, numerous chicken keepers extol the many virtues of chickens. In addition to having a source of food that is raised humanely, chicken owners delight in the antics and companionship of the social, lively birds. Common complaints such as noise, odor, or increased predator populations are often unfounded and rarely pose an issue.

kids and chickens

Factory farmed birds are usually kept caged in very tiny spaces. An issue arising in California relating to the space has caused egg prices to rise and may lead to egg shortages across the country. Factory farms in California must now provide a more humane amount of space for their chickens, which is going to require either costly additions or downsizing of flocks. People who keep their own chickens will be immune to these price increases and shortages.

A great number of backyard chicken keepers were left without legal protections when the Michigan Right To Farm Act was abolished earlier this year. Many refused to give up their birds and are hoping to fly under the radar. Another bunch of chicken keepers are taking their fight into the political and public arenas, hoping to secure legal protections once again.