Sunday, October 12, 2008

Got Chickens? (We do!)

As I previously posted, I was planning to get day-old chicks. Well, those plans fell through, and I ended up getting some 6-week old chicks from a great guy named Jay Gregory - he runs Gregory Poultry, in Virginia. I first 'met' him through a yahoo group called ncpoultry2. To make the transaction, we met him in Winston Salem, while his family was there for a family trip to the Dixie Classic Fair. We drove there and met him in the morning, and by the afternoon, our new girls were settled in their coop.

We actually used the cage I had set up (I had to disassemble it) as the brooder to bring the birds home. (yes, we let them ride in the cab of our truck on the way home) On the ride home we got to know the girls a little better... uh... and smell them better too - six hens in an enclosed truck don't really smell lovely, just to let you know. We named them all by the time we got home. It was quite hard to keep the kids from sticking their fingers in the cage, and we used hand sanitizer liberally on the way home!

Here are some pictures of our new chickens - we've had them now for one week! They seem to be doing really well. They're used to their coop (they are too old for a brooder!), and they know to go up the ramp at bedtime!

This is one of the two Ameraucanas named Ginger.

Here I am, holding Sassy, one of the two Buff Orpingtons.

Anderson is holding Sassy also, who is saying "Please don't squish me!"

This is Betty, a Barred Plymouth Rock. She is the largest of the six, and the most friendly. After a week at our house, she will come running up to the front of the coop whenever you come by, and she likes to be petted.

Scarlett, our Rhode Island Red... she seems to be the most timid.

Gray Whitney - she's gray and buff/light brown - we named her after Ray Whitney of the Carolina Hurricanes.

This is Miss Priss... she's a Buff Orpington. We had originally named her Miss Piggy, but that has changed. She's very sweet and curious. She's the second most friendly one besides Betty.

The Wake Weekly did a final story regarding the "Hens in Wake Forest" campaign - I would like to give you a link to it, but it's not available online right now. The reporter used the picture of me above, and also took one of my daughter right next to the coop. It was a really nice story. I hope to be able to get it on here somehow so others (not in the WF area) who are following the story can read it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Setting up your brooder

If you have chosen to order chicks (like I did), you will need to have a brooder box for them to live in until they get big enough/feathered enough to go outside in your ark, coop, tractor, whatever you have...

Here's a picture of my Brooder box... it's a 19 1/2" x 32" guinea pig cage I got off of craigslist a year or so ago, and I've added some cardboard around the edges to help keep the heat in and drafts out! Right now I only have cardboard around half of mine because it's in a very protected spot in my house... under a craft table, up against a wall. I may add more if it seems to be drafty, but I think it's gonna be OK!

You may use a large cardboard box, an old cooler, a child's wading pool... whatever has sides big enough that the little peepers won't hop or fly out of(they can fly pretty quickly). You may need to put 'bird' netting over the top of whatever you have, depending on how high the sides are.

A heat lamp is a must... Brand new chicks need their temp at 95 degrees the first week, then each week after that dropping by increments of 5 degrees. If your chicks act like it's too hot, then you can adjust it - don't ever stand firm to these 'rules' - watch what your chicks tell you too! They sell clip-on ones at the home improvement stores, or you could rig it up to hang over the brooder somehow. It needs to be able to be adjusted, lower and higher so the chicks don't get too hot... and I think it's recommended to get the red bulb because it makes it easier for the chicks to sleep, and they're less likely to pick at one another too. Of course you'll need chick feeders and waterers. There are a couple of designs out there, but the main thing is to make sure you place them up on something like a brick or a board so the chicks can reach them but they don't get as much bedding and dirt in the food or water.

We decided to get a digital remote thermometer... like the ones you can mount part of it outside (transmitter) and then read the indoor/outdoor temps on the receiver inside. If you decide not to get a thermometer, you'll probably be OK - the chicks will let you know if they're too cold (by huddling directly below the light), too hot (by staying as far away from the light as possible) or if there's a draft (huddling to one side of the light)... if the chicks are peeping contentedly and moving around the brooder seemingly unaware of the temperature, they're probably happy!

For the first couple of days you will not need to use anything but paper towels as bedding... the little chick's legs can't handle the slipperiness of newspaper, and if you put them in the brooder with pine shavings or other types of small bedding material, they might try to eat it and get sick or die. Put the paper towels down, load up your feeder and waterer, get the heat lamp running and warm up the brooder - all BEFORE you go to get your chicks from the PO or wherever. You want to have things ready for them when they come....

This is the point I'm at now... ready and waiting to see the cute little fluffy butts!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

In the N&O, North Raleigh News section today:

Wake Forest approves household chickens
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall, Staff Writer
Comment on this story WAKE FOREST - Emily Cole can have her chickens.
The Wake Forest town Board of Commissioners last week voted 4 to 1 to let Cole and any other town resident keep up to 10 hens.
Cole spoke to the town board last month, asking them to change a rule that required prospective chicken owners to get all neighbors within 500 feet to approve their plans.
Only one family has successfully convinced their neighbors to let them have chickens.
Cole couldn't. Though many neighbors had no problem with her plans, a few disagreed.
So Cole started a petition asking the town to loosen its rules. She eventually gathered several hundred signatures.
In August, town board members said they agreed that the rules needed to be changed.
Earlier this month, they considered a draft ordinance that allowed up to five chickens. Last week, after a public hearing, board members agreed to increase that number to 10. Cole had originally hoped officials would allow as many as 20.
"I'm really happy with the outcome, and I'm really excited that it didn't take six months to do it," Cole said. "I'm also really happy that the Wake Forest commissioners are open-minded. I'm excited that they realize it's a good step forward for the town."
Across the country, more urban and suburban residents are keeping chickens amid fears of the safety of the food supply and a desire to buy local products.
Until now, only the Bissette family in Wake Forest was allowed to have chickens. They were awarded a permit earlier this year after all of their neighbors agreed to their plans.
Neighbors and families at Holding Park across the street often stop by to see their hens.
The new rules mean that the Bissettes no longer have to get their permit renewed each year.
Dave Bissette said he wasn't concerned about getting the permit renewed, but it was a hassle. The family would have had to canvass all their neighbors again.
"I'm glad, quite frankly, I don't have to deal with it anymore," said Bissette.
Nobody came forward to speak out against the new rules at the public hearing. Town commissioner Pete Thibodeau was the lone dissenting vote.
Commissioner Frank Drake said many Wake Forest homeowners who live in neighborhoods where homeowner association rules ban chickens won't be able to keep them, despite the law.
Drake, whose grandparents tended chickens in a neighborhood when he was a child, said most people who contacted him supported the measure.
"I really don't think this is going to be as prevalent as vegetable gardening," he said. "Nobody seemed to have a problem with it once they realized that they lived in a neighborhood that had an HOA that forbade it."
Cole said last week that she wasn't sure when she will get her chickens, but it could be in the next week or so. Her husband has plans to build a miniature barn.
When Cole got home from last week's meeting, her husband and two young children were waiting to congratulate her with chicken drawings taped to the door.
They told her, the "chickens are coming." or (919) 829-8983

Needless to say, my kids are very excited about having some chickens soon!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

So, you want some chicas too? (how to start your flock)

OK - I know some of you would like to have a small flock of chickens. Now that it's legal in Wake Forest to have up to 10 hens (NO ROOSTERS), I've gotten some inquiries on how to start. So, I guess I'll put some info up here to help out if I can..... I will stress, however, that I am NOT AN EXPERT!!!! (I don't even have any chickens yet!)

First, you have to decide how many and what kinds you want to get.... there are SOOOO many different varieties out there, I couldn't begin to list them all. I will just give you a good idea of a few different ones... Please check out MyPetChicken or BackyardChickens for their info on breeds. There are several hatcheries that have great info too - there are links to these hatcheries on those two sites.

If you're looking for mainly egg production:
Plymouth Rocks (Barred, Black, White), Orpingtons (Buff, Black), Rhode Island Reds, Sussex, Leghorns (pronounced 'Leggerns'), and Australorps are going to be the most prolific egg producers... Then you also get into whether you want different colored eggs. There are the 'Easter-Eggers' Ameraucanas, which the Bissette's have over on Main St, and they lay green to blue eggs, and occasionally pinkish. There are also the hard-to-find true Auracanas which are blue egg layers. The Rhode Island Reds have brown, Leghorns have white...

If you just want some mainly for pets, and don't care much about eggs:
Polish varieties come in a myriad of colors (and have fluffy heads), Silkies, with really fluffy feathers that look like a fluff ball, turkens (really a chicken which looks like a bald-necked turkey), and almost all of the bantam breeds... they're in this section just because they've got tiny little eggs. (about 1/2 of standard size large eggs -they still taste great though!)

OK - once you've selected the breed(s) and how many you want, you need to determine how you're going to house them. I recommend you follow the 4 square foot/bird rule for your coop. I would say give them larger space if you're planning to keep them cooped up a lot. I recommend also, that you have a movable coop so your hens can forage in your yard safe from predators. There are TONS of options available. I love the CatawbaCoop chicken ark (he's having a $9.99 sale on them this week!!!) , I think it's a great, affordable design! It's quite attractive too, especially if you made it from redwood or cedar! I would suggest keeping no more than 4-5 standard sized hens in one full-time.

There are also links to coop designs that are for sale on MyPetChicken, and BackyardChickens has a great page full of user submitted photos and sometimes even step-by-step photos showing the folks building their coops. There are many different sizes and styles available - movable, and stationary - the options are unlimited - you could look at a few and then design your own perhaps!

My plan is to have a stationary (attractive)barn-style coop with a large enclosed run attached to it, but also have an ark in which I can take several birds out to forage around my yard where I want them. I like the idea that I can keep some things stored in the stationary coop - I'll use part of it (partitioned off) for storing my personal garden tools, gloves, and the chicken supplies. The plan is to have the nesting boxes on the interior wall so I can get to the eggs via a little door from the 'shed' side and not have to get my shoes dirty to get the eggs. My husband has been excitedly drawing up different plans and asking me what I want everything to look like! Many of you who want to own chickens are most likely pretty handy yourselves, and will be able to come up with a great place - if not, please check the links I mentioned above. Some places will even ship you a kit with detailed instructions, and you just assemble it.

Wow - so you've hopefully decided which breeds of hens, and how many, and how you're planning to house them... now - where are you going to get your chickens from??? That was my major dilemma this week - I am quite impatient now that I've got the legal footing to get some 'chicas'... and I don't want to wait! There are many ways to acquire your flock...

** purchase chicks online or find a local hatchery where you can pick them up, brood them in your house/garage/storage building until they get large enough and feathered out enough to be outside in the elements, then move them to your coop. Wait several months before you get your first egg, then have an 'egg party'! (this method allows you to hand-raise your chicks, which makes them more docile and people friendly ='lap bird')
** purchase 'pullets' online or from a local hatchery, place them in your coop when you get them and only wait a few weeks to get your first eggs. (you can't be sure of their temperament, but usually they'll warm up to you if they're young enough and you handle them frequently)
** purchase grown hens from somewhere close by and start off with hens already laying. You may want to be cautious about this method - some owners may 'fudge' a little about the hen's age, and then you may end up with a hen that produces for a short time. (you're also not sure of the hen's temperament or disposition when you purchase them already as adults, and they can be kinda set in their ways)
** rescue 'battery cage' hens - this is not something I have done much research on, but you can do an Internet search. Key Points: There are organizations which help place unwanted birds from commercial laying facilities, and you can help rescue a few of these poor animals. They're usually really awful and ratty looking at first, but from what I've heard, they warm up to human contact quickly and once they've molted and feathered out, they make great pets.

I have chosen the first option listed above, and have an order of tiny day-old chicks which are coming to me in 9-10 days. I can't wait to meet them! I'm very excited about raising these chicks and so are my kids. It will be a wonderful learning experience for my daughter at least, and something that will keep my son entertained for maybe 10 minutes each day! (he's 2!)
We may also get a polish bantam chick or another bantam chick from a friend locally since they're really cute mini-chicas. I think I'll let my daughter pick one out especially for herself.

So - if you have questions... please post them in the comments section... I'll do my best to answer. Otherwise, those sites I mentioned above are really great resources of information. Please cruise around them! BackyardChickens has a really great forum which is a wealth of information, and tons of folks will post pictures, advice, information, whatever you need! There are also several Yahoo groups dedicated to raising chickens, just search for one in your area. In NC, there are two that I know of, "NCPoultry-east" and "ncpoultry2" click to follow a link to that group.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wake Weekly and Wake Forest Gazette Stories

The Wake Weekly and Wake Forest Gazette both ran stories on Thursday about the 4-1 vote Tuesday night for allowing hens in Wake Forest. While the Wake Weekly's story isn't available online, click here for the Gazette's.

I have a feeling there will be quite a few small flocks popping up around Town in the next year or so. I hope that each of these flocks will be well maintained by responsible owners, and we won't have any complaints do deal with. I think this is a wonderful step forward for our community - let's put it into action!

I hope to have a few 'chicas' in my yard in the next couple of weeks!
Here's what I plan to build this weekend:

Perhaps I'll see a few of these around town soon too?!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's Official! Wake Forest Commissioners Vote In New Ordinance to Allow Urban Chickens.

It's Official! Wake Forest Commissioners Vote In New Ordinance to Allow Urban Chickens.

By David Bissette

WAKE FOREST, NC. - The Town of Wake Forest's Board of Commissioners voted tonight to approve the chicken ordinance amendment. In a 4 to 1 vote, Commissioners Chris Kaeberlein, Anne Hines, Frank Drake, and Margaret Stinnett all ruled to append the town ordinances with an urban chicken amendment. The amendment allows for the keeping of up to ten chickens inside the town limits, excluding roosters.

Dissenting vote Commissioner Pete Thibodeau voiced concerns that the ordinance amendment was not restrictive enough. His concerns were that people would house the birds in their front yards and that there were no provisions in the amendment for how the chickens were to be housed. "We could have chickens running around in the town's major streets." said Thibodeau.

Commissioner Drake countered each point, reminding Thibodeau that there were not provisions for the keeping of other pets like dogs and cats in the ordinances either.

The vote was taken after an open microphone discussion. Emily Cole addressed the board stating that she felt that the town's legal council proposal of five birds was too limited given the period of time that a chicken lays eggs verses it's lifespan. She then proposed that the amendment allow either ten or twelve birds. The assenting commissioners agreed to her proposal and increased the limit on urban chickens to ten during their vote.

Former California resident Jeff Boldizar shared with the board news of the Fair Oaks Chicken Festival. A suburb of Pasedena, Fair Oaks can be considered to be one of the chicken friendliest places in the US. Chickens are allowed to "free range" alongside humans on downtown streets and in city parks. While not advocating such a policy for Wake Forest, he did mention that he thought the trend towards urban agriculturalism would mark the town as a place where people would want to reside.

"I'm very excited about this vote," said David Bissette, owner of the only permitted chickens inside the town limits. "This really opens an opportunity for people to becomes more more familair with their food source. That is something that has been lacking in the American diet and way of life for over 50 years now."

WE DID IT!!!!!

Tonight the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 in favor of changing the town ordinance so that residents may keep up to 10 hens in their yards without any sort of permit.

Woo Hooo!!! Yippeee!!! Cowabunga!!! (can you think of any other exclamation I could use?)

When the public hearing session was opened, I made a brief statement about the number being too low (at the suggested 5). Then, several other members of the community spoke in favor of the change. Gerald Potter, whom I had met at the Farmer's Market one Saturday spoke about the importance of people knowing where their food comes from, and talked about the Victory Gardens and Wake Forest's role in helping it's residents when times were tough by bringing topsoil in so folks could grow their own foods. Jeff Boldizar brought information about a town in California which is known for it's chickens - they even have a festival each year! Dave Bissette also chimed in with statistics about Victory Gardens and the fact that in the '40s about 40% of a person's food was grown or produced somehow within their community. The consensus was reached by all that the number of hens allowed should be raised to 10, and that it was an important step for the Town of Wake Forest toward a more sustainable future.

There were no community members in attendance who spoke in opposition to the amendment, however, Commissioner Thibodeau did have some reservations about the change. He stated his concern that if any size parcel could have 10 hens there could be problems. Commissioner Drake tried to reassure him that most of the newer home communities with these smaller sized lots were governed under HOA's and the point was made that most of the HOA's don't allow any hens, so it shouldn't be much of an issue. Thibodeau was also concerned about there being no limitations set on where the hens could be housed. He stated there could be traffic issues if chickens housed in front yards were to get out and roam into the streets. Commissioner Stinnett replied that there were no restrictions on cats or dogs in the same manner, and so she didn't see any reason for there to be such restrictions on the chickens either.

I personally do think that Thibodeau's points were valid - that's why I had originally drafted a fairly stringent ordinance revision for the Commissioners to review in August. Their own staff decided to go the 'easy' route and make it as simple as possible - The wording will only add roughly a paragraph to the existing ordinance books. While I understand the town doesn't have the staff to enforce the permitting restrictions I had proposed, I am surprised at the lack of restrictions. (Not that I'm complaining!)

When time came to vote on the issue, Thibodeau's "nay" was the only one heard, so that meant the amendment passed 4-1.

After the vote, I spoke with Kerry Hall from NBC 17 out in the hallway, and she said a segment will run on the 11pm news tonight. (I've got my DVR set to record!) The Wake Weekly's David Leone was there, as well as Carol Pelosi of the Wake Forest Gazette. I'm interested to see their stories later this week.

I am so thankful for all of the support I have received from this community - especially the Bissette family, and the folks who came out to the public hearing tonight. There were several others there who didn't speak, but showed their support by attending - THANK YOU! I couldn't have done it without that support, and without the knowledge that I wasn't just doing this for myself. This change to the town ordinance will make it much easier for many other families to have a few chickens of their own... have fresh eggs that they know are healthy... this is a great step forward for our entire community!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Come on out on Tuesday!

Tuesday night the Town of Wake Forest Comissioners will hear public comments on the issue of backyard chickens in Wake Forest. I am hoping they will also vote after they hear whatever comments residents have. I plan to ask the Board to consider allowing residents to have up to 10 or 12 hens without the livestock permit, as a compromise between Mr. Summer's suggestion of 5, and my initial request of 20. I am sure there are three commissioners in favor of this number, so I feel confident they will approve that change, and vote on Tuesday.

The meeting will be held starting at 7pm at the Wake Forest Town Hall.

Please come out to show your support for the changed ordinance!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Work Session outcome

I just got home from attending the Wake Forest Board of Commissioner's work session this evening, and left the meeting a little disappointed.

At their last meeting, two weeks ago, the Commissioners asked some staffers to work on drafting an amended ordinance to be presented at this work session for review and consideration for a public hearing. Apparently the duty was delegated to Bill Summers, one of the town planners, who is in charge of issuing the livestock permits currently. He very simply stated, after snickering a little bit about how little he knew of the issue, that he suggested that the simplest change would be to amend the current ordinance to omit hens numbering fewer than five (5). In other words, you would not need a permit from the town to keep 5 or less hens in the town limits. If you wanted more than 5, you would need to submit to the current permitting process for livestock.

Now... this is a step forward... keeping hens would be allowed without a permit - that's great! But in my opinion the number 5 is too low! I had suggested that they allow 20 because of the diminished egg production once the animal gets to a certain age.... this guy wasn't taking that into consideration at all. I wonder if he's read the information I put together for the Commissioners... maybe I should send it to him...

Anyway - that's basically what transpired about chickens at the meeting tonight. I stayed to the end, and spoke with one of the Commissioners, Chris Kaeberlein, who also would like to see the number a little bit higher. He suggested 10. Really, that would be better, but larger families would still be out of luck if it were capped at that number. I am emailing all of the Commissioners tonight about the issue... and I hope they'll support a higher number when the time to vote comes around.

The Wake Weekly will be doing a story about the meeting later this week (Thursday) and I wouldn't be surprised to see something about it in the Wake Forest Gazette too. I just hope all of our local supporters will come out on September 16th to show that they want this ordinance changed with a reasonable amount of hens allowed.

Chicken Coops - they can be decorative too!

SO I haven't posted on here for a while - there really hasn't been much to report - and I think that's a good thing. Right now we're waiting for the Board of Commissioners' staff to draft the new ordinance. Hopefully they'll have that ready for the Commissioners work session this evening, and it will be approved and put to a public hearing to be held on September 16th. I am planning to attend their work session tonight, I hope to get a copy of the drafted ordinance to review, and find out first-hand how they all feel about it, and if it will, indeed be a public hearing item in two weeks! In the meantime, I've been kinda laying low - at this point, I don't feel a lot of media attention is what we need. We don't want to get the opposition all 'riled' up. I would rather not have this drag out for a long time, and it seems with the opinions shown at the meeting on August 19th, there shouldn't be any problem getting the Commissioner's to vote 'yes' for the changes.

Dave and Mitzi have been working more and more on their new business of selling chicken ark plans, and will hopefully be selling kits and completed arks soon. Please check out their site at the link below:

If you're wondering how you can have a small flock in your backyard - just check out these arks... I'm planning to make one or two myself! My family plans to also have a stationary barn-style coop in our backyard with a large run attached for times when we don't want the chicas out in the yard, but the arks will be great for when we might need to have the chicas 'work' an area of our garden, or 'prepare' new bed spaces!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I was shakin' like a leaf!


Well, I headed out to the meeting this evening, and got there a little early. It was interesting to walk into the Town Hall 'after hours' and right into the meeting room. At first there weren't many people there, and the ones that were there were very quiet, so I picked a seat and sat down. I was sure Dave would be there soon, and just figured I would hang out and take in the atmosphere of the room. It was very interesting - it seemed everyone else that was there knew each other. As more folks trickled into the room, I felt under dressed for the occasion... most of the women had dress suits or skirts on, and all of the men had suits and ties. I was wearing a semi-nice shirt and black slacks. Oh well... I wasn't going to speak anyway! Here I am before leaving the house:

So I realised I had left my water in the car, so I went back out to get it, and when I returned there were even more folks there! All dressed in business suits and such. I watched as they all pretty much knew where they wanted to sit, and it reminded me of going to a wedding... I felt that I needed to know which side to sit on (Bride or Groom?). At about that time, Dave walked in and I asked him where he wanted to sit, and we found a spot, near the front. It was nice to be able to see all of the commissioners and their expressions during the proceedings.

There were quite a few things that were 'tabled' and it seemed that some of the Commissioners were tired of hearing about the mundane issues like zoning and annexations. Luckily our issue came up pretty quickly, and then the Mayor said "I believe Mrs. Cole is here tonight, and would like to speak" - Uh..... OH MY! Good thing I had finished my presentation and printed it out (just in case)! Yikes! I was not really mentally prepared to stand up at that podium and give my presentation, but I did it, and by the end, I was comfortable.

Several commissioners had questions, and I answered them completely and politely, and I think to their satisfaction because after all of the discussions had ended, they all said things like "I'm all for it", "I think it's a great idea", and "Let's do it"... practically in unison. I think they were all relieved to be able to talk about something with a little bit of character. There was discussion with the town attorney and the planning folks about drafting the restrictions in a more 'legal' manner, and as I understand it, the issue will be brought up as a public hearing at the next meeting. They're even considering making the ordinance state that you don't have to get a permit at all! Woo Hoo! Overall, I feel very positive about the outcome of this meeting, and hopefully the public hearing will go positively as well.

Once the issue of Backyard Hens was wrapped up and the meeting moved on, someone waved me over to go outside. It was Frank Graff from NBC17 (our local NBC station). He wanted to interview me about the meeting, so we did a quick on-air interview right there in the hallway. He said it would air tonight. I also spoke with reporters from the Wake Weekly, and the Wake Forest Gazette! Before Dave and I left, we met with one of our local supporters, which was really nice! I hope later on to add some video here.

Why all of a sudden, is there such an interest in backyard chickens?

Tonight, The Wake Forest Board of Commissioners meets at 7pm. I will be there to answer any questions they may have, and I fully expect them to make the decision that this issue be put to a public hearing. From what I understand, at a public hearing, supporters and dissenters each have a chance to speak about their opinions. If this occurs, I will be ready with my presentation. I have already contacted as many people I know about this possibility, and hopefully, when the time comes, these local supporters will come out in droves to show their support for changing this ordinance.

In light of the recent newspaper articles, and because of the meeting tonight of the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners, I have sent out an email to those I know to be in support of the issue. I thought it would do our cause some good to have the positive opinions clearly stated and made known to the board and the media. Luckily the Wake Weekly has put a 'button' on their web site asking for opinions, and all of the Town Commissioners have their email addresses right next to their pictures on the Town Website.

Here are just two of the helpful comments that have been sent in to either the Wake Weekly or the Commissioners, and have also been copied to me. Thank you for your support, I'm sure there will be an update after the meeting!

Something I've been asking myself recently is, "Why all of a sudden, is there such an interest in backyard chickens?" As the owners of Wake Forest's only permitted flock of urban poultry, my wife and I talk to people every day who express more and more interest in becoming personal and familiar with their food and where it comes from. As spinach, peppers, and tomatoes are pulled off supermarket shelves due to e.coli and salmonella, how can you blame them?

Backyard chickens hearken to the times when the United States was a nation of producers, not consumers. My friend Mike Thorpe was telling me about an conversation he had with his wife's grandmother. Her father raised pigeons, chickens, and other livestock that fed their family inside the city limits of Buffalo, NY. She said that pigeon meat, called squab, is delicious.

Later on, in the early 1940s, nearly 40% of the US' produce needs were met a nationwide Victory Garden program. Communities and neighbors banded together to turn lawns, parks, and vacant property into productive gardens to help "support the boys over there." Chickens offered an inexpensive herbicide, pesticide, and fertilizer for those Victory Gardens.

Can you imagine one third of your family's food coming from a location not more than a mile from your house? It is just as possible today as it was 60 years ago. You can start immediately by purchasing your produce from local farmers at the Wake Forest Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings.

I believe that urban poultry are the proverbial tip of the iceberg as our nation moves into a paradigm shift away from the devil-may-care consumerism that has driven our spending behaviors for the past 50 years. We're living in a situation where words like localvour and "food, not lawns" are beginning to drive our social consciousness once again. Perhaps it's time to create a new Victory Garden program with interest in backyard chickens as the initial driving force.

Best Regards,
David Bissette


Dear Commissioners,

I am writing to you about the petition you have received requesting that the Wake Forest ordinance against chickens be changed. I believe that it should be changed now, and I'd like to tell you why.

I live in Raleigh, where there is no ordinance against chickens in the city limits, and I have chickens. If you had told me two years ago I would now be raising chickens, I would have laughed. But last year, I visited a city coop for the first time, and I was amazed. The chickens were so quiet, you wouldn’t know they were there. There was no odor, no mess – and free eggs! So I took a class on chicken keeping and got my first chicks in 2007. I now have a flock of 12 and just hatched my first chicks last month. So far, 5 friends who have visited my coop are now backyard chicken owners too.

Some chicken facts that you may not know are that, when properly maintained, chickens do not smell. Their manure dries quickly and makes an excellent fertilizer for lawns and gardens. Chickens do not require a rooster to lay eggs, only to lay eggs that could potentially hatch into chicks. Chickens can be purchased online and safely shipped through the mail when they are just one day old. Chickens can lay up to an egg per day when young. Production slows with age, and may cease around 5-6 years. The average natural lifespan of a chicken is about 8 years. Hens are surprisingly quiet – you could be just a few feet from a chicken coop and never know it. Most people find the clucking sounds they make to be soothing. I also find feeding them and watching them forage and interact to be a great relaxer at the end of the work day.

In May of this year, I participated in the 4th Annual Henside the Beltline Tour d’Coop, a group of 20 backyard chicken coops inside the beltline in Raleigh that are open for the public one day a year. See
Over 350 visitors came to my house to tour my coop, and they were amazed just as I once was.

Unlike the first coop I saw, I have an accidental rooster. Before it began crowing and I had to change its name to Quincy, none of my neighbors – even those right next door - knew I had chickens at all. When Quincy began crowing, I was worried that he would disturbing my neighbors and I planned to find him a new home. Then, during the Tour, I was surprised that many of my neighbors told me that they liked hearing him! “Doesn’t he bother you?” I asked. “No,” one neighbor replied, “I love to hear him in the morning. It reminds me of growing up on the farm. P lease don’t get rid of him!” “It reminds me of my grandparents’ farm,” said another, who loved seeing the way her own grandson giggled loudly every time Quincy crowed. I keep my rooster inside his coop at night and until the end of quiet hours in the morning, so his crows are muffled a bit for my neighbors’ benefit. In the year I’ve had him, I’ve never had a complaint about my chickens or my rooster. But I have had lots of compliments!

Perhaps the best way to convince you would be for you to see it for yourself. I would like to invite you to visit my coop in Raleigh. I live near the intersection of Oberlin Road and Glenwood Avenue. Please just email me at ***(has been removed)** to set up a time to visit.

In summary, chickens are great pets and should be allowed in city limits. They cause my neighbors far less disturbance than some of my area’s night-barking, garden-digging, cat-chasing, and lawn-droppings-leaving dogs. They are a wonderful way to teach children about responsibility, sustainability, and the sources of food. They provide nutritional eggs which, like a backyard garden’s produce, are both more delicious and (I believe) more nutritious than what I could buy at the grocery. They eat bugs and provide rich fertilizer. And they are fun and relaxing to own.

I hope that you will overturn the ordinance and allow chickens in Wake Forest. Please feel free to contact me to visit my coop and see for yourself, or to ask any questions you might have.

Thank you for your time,
Julie W.


Thursday, August 14, 2008

On the Agenda, but not speaking...

I found out yesterday that the Wake Weekly was doing another story on the issue of Backyard Chickens in Wake Forest! Leslie Rudd, the reporter from the WW, called me on Tuesday but got my home answering machine - which I don't use very often. I did check the messages yesterday, and called Leslie back immediately. She told me that they had heard our issue was going to be on the agenda for August 19th, and she had talked with the Mayor and the Town Manager. She also told me that it would probably be put to a public hearing, which I hadn't heard before. Here's the article in the Wake Weekly, and then my notes below:

Family eggs on town for urban farm rights
By Leslie Rudd, Wake Weekly Staff Writer
August 14, 2008
Not ones to ignore citizen clucks, the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners agreed to review long-standing livestock ordinances at its Aug. 19 meeting. Renewed interest in urban farming spurred some residents to question the town’s livestock rules. Residents David and Mitzi Bissette are the only family in Wake Forest which successfully completed the annual permit process to keep farm animals (first reported July 17 in The Wake Weekly). The town requires interested residents within town limits to receive written consent to have livestock from every neighbor within 500 feet. The process is different for each applicant, depending on how many neighbors they have. Residents Emily and Mike Cole, while going through the same application, needed the approval of close to 40 neighbors. The Coles couldn’t get everyone’s OK and instead are circulating a petition to change the town’s livestock ordinance to exclude domesticated hens. Mayor Vivian Jones feels the current requirements may be over-reaching. “To notify people within 500 feet — that seems to be a pretty wide range,” she said, noting that rezoning a property requires owners to notify neighbors within only 100 feet away. Extensive media attention and a few feathery visits to the Wake Forest Farmers’ Market have the Coles the talk of the town. Commissioners obliged to Cole’s request to address the board, adding her to the next agenda. Cole presents her case to the board of commissioners Tuesday, at 7 p.m. According to her Web site,, she will ask commissioners to exclude domesticated hens from the list of livestock. She also outlines separate regulations for handling and keeping hens:
•No person shall allow his or her hens to run at large within the corporate town limits
•It shall be unlawful for any person to keep more than 20 hens within the corporate limits of the town
•Hens must be kept a minimum of 30 feet from the nearest residence other than that of the owner, unless the neighbor has given expressed written permission
•Roosters are not permitted within the corporate limits of the town unless written approval is obtained along with the livestock permit.
Cole adds hens may not be used for commercial purposes as well as detailing what kind of coop hens must be kept in. Town Manager Mark Williams said he doesn’t anticipate the board taking any action on the issue next week. “I think at this time they will take her comments under advisement. They may move to hold a public hearing on the issue at a later date.” To date, Cole added over 100 signatures to her online petition. New interest in organic food has Jones considering the full spectrum of the current rules. “A lot of people are more interested in it than they ever have been,” she said. “We don’t make you have approval for dogs that bark. It’s something that we should take a look at.” She does agree a public hearing should be held before any changes are made to the rules. Prospective changes to the livestock ordinance have the Bissette family excited. “I completely support this amendment to the town ordinances,” said David Bissette. “They are currently too restrictive, given the state of the economy and the rising costs of food production. Give us your opinion by clicking on Chickens at

Apparently the Mayor seems intrigued by the idea, and some of her comments lead me to believe she's open to the changes. The issue is on the agenda for the commissioners meeting on Tuesday, August 19, at 7pm, and I had been told I would have 5 minutes to do a presentation. I have been working on it all week... I still haven't seen the agenda for the meeting - so I called Town Hall this morning to inquire about it. I spoke with the Town Clerk, Joyce Wilson, who informed me that the issue is item 70? or maybe 17?(Update: I just got the agenda in my email, and it's item 7-D, Ha ha!) She also informed me that I will not be speaking on the issue after all... the Commissioners will discuss it, and decide about having a public hearing. The Town Clerk did recommend that I attend the meeting(duh) in case they want to ask me any questions. I will definitely be there! I will also have my presentation in hand just in case. I have sent out some emails asking for local residents to come support us at the meeting. I hope they won't be disappointed that I'm not scheduled to speak this time. I'm interested to see what comes out of this meeting and hear what the commissioners have to say on the subject.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Our second Farmer's Market visit!

Golden Sebright Bantam Hen

Yet again, the hens attracted a lot of attention at the Wake Forest Farmer's Market this weekend. Folks who were there to peruse the fresh produce, cut flowers, and local honey, also flocked toward the gazebo to see the 6 little bantam hens in the Bissette's chicken ark. I made sure to purchase my 2 jugs of 'front porch' honey and some loaves of bread early in the morning so I wouldn't miss out.

We borrowed some Bantams for visitors to see at the Market. There were 4 different varieties in the coop this time, 2 Seramas, 2 Golden Sebrights, a White Crested Black Polish, and a Spangled Old English Game Hen. Many folks thought the Crested Polish Hen was the neatest looking hen they had ever seen. The question "What's that fluffy-headed one called?" was heard several times Saturday morning. Others remarked about the beautiful plumage on the Golden Sebrights and the white speckled Old English Game Hen. Visitors also remarked about the tiny egg size these Bantam birds lay.

Dave Bissette was often holding one of his friendly Ameracauna hens. He brought 'Skunky' and 'Goldy' for market goers to pet, since the bantam varieties can be a little 'flighty'. Skunky's name surprised many visitors, because she doesn't look (or smell) anything like a skunk. When she was a tiny chick, though, she had a black stripe down her head and back so the Bissette's named her 'Skunky'. She is now one of the most friendly birds in their flock.

We were able to get more than 100 additional signatures on the petition again this Saturday. It was great to see the swell of support for Backyard Chickens in Wake Forest, and many folks were pleased to read a poster listing the suggested amendments that will be presented to the Town Board of Commissioners in the near future. They had to be finalized to be included in the packet I turned in at town hall. I hope they're written with enough 'legalese' to make sense to the Commissioners and the Mayor.
We ARE on the agenda - and we WILL be there to make our presentation to the Wake Forest Board of Commissioners on August 19th. Please come and show your support! The meeting starts at 7pm. (I think I'm going to show up early!)

Suggested amendments and requirements to Code 1985, § 3-26 include: (changes in italics)

Sec. 6-51. Required.
No person shall stable, tie or otherwise keep within the town, nearer than 500 feet to any dwelling house, apartment or other residence occupied by any person, without first obtaining a permit in writing signed by the town and issued as provided in this division, any of the following types of animals:
(1) Cattle;
(2) Horses;
(3) Mules;
(4) Swine;
(5) Sheep;
(6) Goats; or
(7) Fowl, excluding domesticated hens as stated in Sec. 6-56.

(Code 1985, § 3-26)

(Addition of Sec. 6-56. ) Sec. 6-56. Domesticated Hens.
1) No person shall allow his or her hens to run at large within the corporate limits of the town.
2) It shall be unlawful for any person to keep more than twenty (20) hens within the corporate limits of the town.
3) Domesticated Hens are permitted only in Residential areas with Zoning of R-15 or above.
4) Hens must be kept a minimum of thirty (30) feet from the nearest residence other than that of the owner, unless that neighbor has given expressed written permission.
5) All hen coops and pens must be enclosed on all sides, including the top, using predator proof wire.
6) Enclosures must be clean, dry, and odor free; kept in a neat and sanitary condition at all times..
7) Hen coops and pens must be maintained in an attractive fashion. All coop plan elevations must be submitted to the town permitting office for approval.
8) Hens must be kept in an enclosure or fenced-in area at all times. During daylight hours, hens may be allowed outside of their coop in a securely fenced yard if supervised. Hens shall be secured within the coop during non-daylight hours.
9) It shall be prohibited to raise hens for commercial purposes within the corporate limits of the town without a livestock permit.
10) Processing of animals for personal consumption within public view is prohibited within town limits.
11) Roosters are not permitted within the corporate limits of the town, unless written approval is obtained along with the livestock permit.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Story in the N&O ran today!

Here's the story that ran in the North Raleigh News section of the News and Observer today!
If you're here to sign the petition, please click here!

I think that perhaps some of our neighbors who are in favor of the amended ordinance need to send some letters to Bill Summers and also maybe to our Mayor, Vivian Jones. In the sidebar of the online version of this article is a great link to some more truths about backyard chickens! I hope it will help straighten out some of the misconceptions that are out there!

Urban coops create neighbor quandary
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall, Staff Writer
Staff Photos by Chris Seward
Comment on this story

WAKE FOREST - The Bissette family keeps chickens in their yard across the street from the town's popular Holding Park. The hens help keep bugs away from the Bissettes' organic garden. They've become part of the family of five, just like rabbits and a dog. And soon the hens will be old enough to lay eggs.

About a mile away in the Pineview Estates neighborhood, Emily Cole wants a similar setup for her family. But she's not allowed. Unlike the Bissettes, not all of Cole's 37 neighbors who live within 500 feet signed off on her plan, as a town law requires. So Cole is taking her plight to Wake Forest's board of commissioners. She's scheduled to speak at its Aug. 19 meeting.
Cole hopes to persuade the town to change the ordinance so that residents can keep as many as 20 hens without approval from neighbors.

"I'm just trying to stand up for what I believe in," said Cole, the mom of two and a Brownie troop leader. "I feel like I want to teach my [Brownies] that if they believe in something they can do something about it. I can't talk the talk and not walk the walk."

Concerns about the treatment of chickens at factory farms, the safety of massed-produced food, and the rising cost of just about everything have helped bring chickens into the suburbs.
"In terms of agriculture and growing food, it's easier than gardening," said Rick Bennett, who has kept chickens in his yard in Raleigh's Five Points neighborhood for three years. Bennett said he's watching the chicken debates in other towns with amusement. "Some of the reasons [against it] going around seem a little hysterical," he said. "They're overly worried about opening a Pandora's box without coming by and seeing what's happening."

Neighbors' objections
Across the nation, town and city officials are fielding requests such as Cole's.
Critics worry that the birds are noisy, smelly and unsanitary.
Bill Summers, a Wake Forest planner, said he's not sure the town's rules are strict enough, because residential lots in the town are much closer than when the law was originally drafted.
Summers said he received an anonymous letter from one of Cole's neighbors strongly opposing any plans for chickens nearby. The letter writer was concerned about the noise and feces, especially where waste would go after a storm, he said. "People are really polarized on this issue," Summers said.

Proponents point out that well-kept chickens are quieter and cleaner than most pet dogs.
"I have a daily chicken tour," Bennett said. Parents bring their kids, he said, "because it's a connection with where their food comes from."

Across the Triangle
Elsewhere in the Triangle, Durham officials are considering relaxing rules that ban poultry in most parts of the city. Cary's Town Council voted down a proposal last month to allow the keeping of laying hens. But in other parts of the Triangle, chickens flourish.

Raleigh's rules are among the region's most liberal, allowing chickens in the city limits as long as they don't violate health and nuisance standards. Chicken owners inside the Beltline hold an annual Tour d'Coop, during which visitors can learn more about urban chicken-keepers.
Chickens also are allowed in Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

Poultry blogging
In Wake Forest, Summers said he fields about a call a month from people interested in keeping chickens and other livestock in town. The town requires annual renewal of permits allowing chickens and other livestock -- which means chicken owners must return to their neighbors every year to ask permission. "It guards against things like noise," Summers said. "We are not animal-control professionals. If somebody is going to house animals of this type, they need to have permissions from their neighbors."

And though Summers gets monthly requests about keeping livestock in the town limits, Wake Forest has approved only one permit in the past five years -- for the Bissettes. Dave Bissette wanted to get chickens because he remembered the flock that his father kept when he was a child. Bissette wanted his three girls to have the same experience.

A month ago, Bissette launched which chronicles the family's experience getting chickens. His site also sells three to four plans a day for his moveable chicken coops, which are more like cabinets; they range from $15 to $22. "I had no clue that there was this kind of demand for these plans," he said.

No chicken, she
The Bissettes hope Cole is successful. If not, the Bissettes will have to return to their neighbors next year to make sure their permit is renewed.
Cole is not necessarily comfortable in her role as chicken activist. She has started a blog about her experience. But she says she wants what is best for her family, including food Cole believes isn't harmful.

So far, more than 230 people have signed her petition online or at the Wake Forest Farmers Market. She'll be at the market again Saturday. "I got a lot of positive response from my neighbors and a very little bit of negative response," she said. "Since I believe in this idea, I felt I was going to jump in head-first and go after it."


Monday, August 4, 2008

Update! Story to run in the Raleigh News and Observer on Friday!

This Friday:
August 8, 2008 - There will be a story about our issue in the Raleigh News and Observer, North Raleigh Section. I have no idea what photographs will be included, but there was a photographer sent to get some pictures. Mitzi and I talked for quite a while with both the photographer and the reporter, so hopefully there will be a positive reaction to this story.

On Saturday:
August 9, 2008 - We will be at the Wake Forest Farmer's Market again with one of the CatawbaCoops and a few feathered friends. If you're in the area, please stop by and say "hello"! If you haven't done so already, please sign our petition! We will have some information available if you have questions, and hopefully we will be able to dispel any myths you may have heard about backyard chickens.

I have contacted the town clerk, and written the necessary letter asking to be included on the agenda for the Town Commissioner's Meeting on August 19th. I included a packet of information to be distributed to each commissioner which includes information on other towns and city's ordinances, proposed amendments to our existing ordinance, and a FAQ page. I hope this will allow our commissioners to be properly informed before I make the presentation to them on the 19th.

As always, if you have specific questions or comments about backyard chickens, please feel free to leave them here or send an email to We will do our best to answer your comments and questions completely and quickly.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Planning for a positive outcome!

While I was out of town this weekend the news broke that the folks fighting to have chickens as pets in Cary, NC were not successful. I plan to use the information gleaned from their fight to help me with ours! It seems their issue didn't get to be heard by Cary council members until very late in the meeting (about 6 hours in!), and by that time their issue fell on deaf ears. One council member even had the gall to say "Is it really Cary?" (As if they're 'above' such things as having chickens as pets!) The council members apparently didn't even want to entertain the idea of changing the current ordinance, and voted 4-3 against even considering a change.

In order for our plan in Wake Forest to come to a more positive end, I have decided to seek the advice of one of our Town Commissioners as to the best approach. Luckily I have been successful in my goal to converse with him on this subject, and in light of this conversation, I have made more plans.

This week I plan to speak with the Town Clerk, Joyce Wilson about the best way to get the chance to address the Board of Commissioners. I am hoping that we'll figure out which part of the next meeting would be the most efficient use of our (and the Commissioners') time. I have been told that she knows the 'ins and outs' of the meetings and processes better than just about anyone and she would be our best bet for getting on the agenda.

I have also been told not to expect my amendments to be accepted as written, but that they will most likely be re-written by the Town Attorney. This is perfectly fine with me, as long as they ARE re-written and allow me, and people like me, to have pet hens! That is my goal - I'm not looking for public recognition or authorship on a town ordinance. I'm NOT a politician in any way, shape, or form!

If I am successful in coherently presenting my proposal to the Board of Commissioners on August 19, they will still most likely not vote on it that night. I'm told the earliest they could make a decision is most likely 2 weeks after that meeting, so we're looking at 5 weeks and 2 days of waiting still, from today. I hope that the Wake Forest Town Commissioners will take the time to make a carefully informed decision, unlike the hasty decision made by the Cary Council members.

So - Don't forget! If you're in Wake Forest, or ZIP code 27587, to please sign my petition, and send it to anyone you know that could vote. Each person in your household who is voting age! I have had a few people shock me completely, as I thought they wouldn't be in favor of the idea, and they turned out to be staunch supporters! So sometimes folks will surprise you - but you won't know unless you give them that chance!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Don't you need a rooster for eggs?
A: No, you don't. Hens lay eggs without a rooster. The eggs you buy at the store are unfertilized and no rooster is around those hens. You only need a rooster to hatch chicks. Roosters will NOT BE ALLOWED under the new ordinance in Wake Forest.
Q: Are chickens loud?
A: Roosters are loud, and they will not be permitted. Hens are, on average, far quieter than most dogs, parrots, or macaws. They generally make a soft chuckle or cluck. Loud clucking rated at about 70 decibels, while the average conversation would be 60 decibels. Occasionally, when they are showing off an egg they've just laid, their clucking is slightly louder. Normal noises are not audible past 25', the loudest noises at about 50'.
Q: What about smell?
A: Unlike the farm chickens many of us are familiar with, whose coops generally aren't cleaned more than once or twice a year, suburban pet chickens are treated like any other pet. The chicken coop is cleaned several times per week, or even daily. The amount of chicken manure produced by six hens is roughly equivalent to the dog droppings produced by a medium-large dog. And, unlike dog or cat poop (health hazards), chicken manure can be easily composted into fabulous garden fertilizer!
Q: Aren't chicken coops an eyesore?
A: Suburban chicken owners, unlike rural folks with acreage, have their chicken's enclosures in their backyard living space. Thus, they tend to be well-built, well-maintained, pretty structures. The Wake Forest ordinance will contain restrictions to ensure that hen houses and coops are attractive and well maintained, and not a detriment to the neighborhood. Check out for an example.
Q: What about predators or pests?
A: Since the ordinance stipulates that the hens must be in a completely enclosed, predator-proof enclosure, and locked in a henhouse at night, the hens will not attract predators any more than a rabbit in a backyard hutch. The ordinance also contains restrictions concerning feed so that other pests will not be attracted.
Q: Will chickens be running wild in neighborhoods?
A: No. The drafted amendment includes the stipulation that the hens must be kept in a completely enclosed pen at all times unless they are in a securely fenced yard with supervision.
Q: What about diseases like Avian Flu?
A: Despite some sensational news stories that may lead us to believe otherwise, Avian Flu of the type that is contagious to humans has not been found in North America. Any type of avian influenza is spread by contact with the contaminated feces of other birds, primarily migratory waterfowl. Unlike rural farm birds, which "free range" and might, for example, drink from a pond shared with Canada Geese, "backyard hens" in Wake Forest will be kept in an enclosed pen with no contact with the migratory birds. In addition, should avian flu ever reach here, it would more likely spread in situations where birds are maintained in unsanitary conditions, such as the large commercial "factory farms" where chickens are crammed together in filthy cages.... not where chickens are kept as pets in well-maintained coops cleaned as regularly as any suburban pet.
Salmonella is the other primary concern associated with chicken and eggs. Again, this is an issue of cleanliness and chickens kept as pets are unlikely to cause any problems. In fact, Consumer Reports magazine reports that 71% of all supermarket chicken and eggs are contaminated with salmonella: eating your own backyard eggs, where you have control over the sanitation, significantly reduces your chance of exposure. In terms of exposure from pets, chickens are no more likely to carry it than parakeets, and pet reptiles are far more likely culprits. Good hand-washing practices are always important after handling animals.
Pet chickens, unlike cats and dogs, which are prime vectors for rabies and tick-borne diseases, actually keep your yard healthier by eating ticks, grubs, japanese beetles, slugs, and other harmful insects.
Q: How many chickens are we talking about here?
A: The ordinance will limit the number to 20 or less. While four to six hens will supply a family of four with enough eggs for personal use, and to sometimes share with neighbors; Hens will produce eggs from age 6 months to about 6 years depending on their variety. They will live for another 2-4 years after that, so a family would usually desire to add to their flock at that time to allow for continued egg production.
Q: What's this about an "Urban Chicken" movement?
A: In the last 5 or so years, more communities have been adjusting their zoning laws to allow chickens to be kept as pets in urban and suburban areas. As part of the growing awareness in this country of living “green" more people are interested in growing at least some of their own food in kitchen gardens, and in raising a few hens for eggs. The "movement" has spread across the country as people realize that owning a few hens, kept as suburban pets in pretty garden coops, is a good idea. Some people want organic eggs and garden compost, others are concerned about food security, others want to "eat local" to save resources, and others wish to enjoy the lovely, fun pets hens can be.
Q: Aren't chickens mean?
A: Just like any animal, it's all in the upbringing. If you took a bunch of parrots, cockatiels, kittens or puppies and stuck them in a pen with minimal human contact beyond food and water, they probably wouldn't be very good pets. Just like these animals, chickens that are hand-raised from chicks can be wonderful pets. They come when they are called, enjoy being held and are beautiful and even affectionate pets. Check out the links on the sidebar for websites like "My Pet Chicken" and "City Chickens" for more information.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A Day at the Market

Today, Dave, Mitzi, and I spent the morning at the Wake Forest Farmer's Market. The vendors were all very nice and a few even came and signed our petition before the Market opened. We set up a little table in the Gazebo, and put one of the Catawba Converticoops in the mulch nearby.

I was a little apprehensive at first to approach perfect strangers and ask them about signing our petition, I'm not really the public-speaker type! Luckily it seemed that my fears were unfounded, and it didn't take long to get semi-comfortable asking for signatures. It was much easier knowing I wasn't there alone too. There were a lot of people to talk to, and it was great to have Dave and Mitzi to help field questions and gather signatures! There were also a lot of people interested in the hen coop and it's design. Most people there had read the article in the Wake Weekly or seen the story on NBC 17, and were interested in hearing more about Backyard Chickens.
Wake Forest Farmers Market shoppers gather around the coop and sign the petition.

Many people who visited the Market parked right behind where we were set up in the Gazebo, and so they got to see the chickens right away. So many people remarked about how pretty they are and how calm they seemed. The Bissette girls were there off and on, and so was Taylor Anne, so there were usually a couple of children gathered around the coop, which also drew folks' attention. The kids showed others how gentle the hens are by hand-feeding them weeds and grass they picked nearby, and many of the 'visiting' kids got in on the action. There were quite a few families who thought the hens were so sweet, and wanted to get a coop like that for their family! I even got to talk to one of the town commissioners who was visiting the Farmer's Market that morning. It was a nice conversation, and I think the morning was a success - we were able to get over a hundred signatures on the petition!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

Dave and Mitzi's interview with Leslie Rudd from the Wake Weekly must have gone pretty well, because look at what came 'hot off the presses' today! It was on the front page!

Some flock to ‘urban farmer’ trend
By Leslie Rudd, Wake Weekly Staff Writer
July 17, 2008


Gas prices have affected everything from family vacations to food prices. Some Wake Forest residents like Emily Cole are taking matters into their own hands, by getting food from the backyard. Cole wants to offer cheaper, healthier food alternatives for her family. That’s why she is petitioning Wake Forest to allow chickens in the town limits. For Cole, it’s one more way to keep her family “green.” “Food is coming in from other countries and we don’t know what the (health) regulations are, what the inspection process is. For my family it’s important to know where it comes from and how the animals are treated,” she said. Cole said the inhumane treatment of chickens for commercial production is motivation to change Wake Forest’s current livestock ordinance. “The majority of the eggs you buy from the supermarket are about a month old ... (chickens are) stuck in a cage roughly the size of a sheet of paper, injected with hormones and fed highly processed food in order to have her lay as many eggs as possible. If a person were treated that way, it would be illegal,” Cole said. Intent on creating healthier food choices for her family, Cole began Wake Forest’s permit process, which requires the applicant to receive written approval of all residents within 500 feet. “Many have been really excited about this,” she said. “They’re interested in having fresh eggs available to them.”But not everyone is in favor of Cole’s idea. “It seems like a lot of people are close-minded and don’t want to learn the facts,” she said. Opponents have concerns about offensive odors, the attraction of predators and noise. The application process is arduous and that keeps most potential urban farmers at bay, said town planner Bill Summer. “The provisions to get the permit are vigorous. Getting written approval from each dwelling within 500 feet ... it’s the thing that always trips people up.”In Summer’s five years as a town planner, he said he has issued two permits: one for horses and one for chickens. “The chickens are in a very visible place and people that see this become very interested,” he said. David and Mitzi Bissette were able to sway their neighbors earlier this year to obtain a permit. They have raised 10 chickens for personal use on their South Main Street property. David grew up with chickens in Wake Forest. For Mitzi, it’s been a new endeavor. “They are so much fun and it’s teaching our children responsibility — they have to feed them, give them water every day.”Bissette daughters, 10-year-old Anna, 7-year-old Katelyn and 5-year-old Sarah, see the chickens as pets. “They love playing with them, petting them and caring for them,” said Mitzi.The chickens live in urban coops — designed and built by the Bissettes that look something like an ark. The modern cedar coops are covered and mobile. This allows the chickens a new place to peck and prevents any lingering smell. Beyond being a welcome addition to the family, the chickens give the Bissettes peace of mind. “I don’t have to go to the store to buy eggs. But also, I know what I’m feeding my birds and we know they’re healthy,” said Mitzi. David said the application process wasn’t easy. “It’s highly intensive, which strikes me as odd. They’re no more a nuisance than a barking dogs or traffic.” The shift from a rural to urban mindset presented a potential barrier for the Bissettes while pursuing neighbors’ approval. “It was normal to have chickens 40 to 50 years ago,” said Mitzi. “We’re only a generation removed from this. “Our neighbors were very encouraged by the idea. We can’t praise our neighbors enough for being open to this.”Following a pecking orderBecause the permits are issued annually, there’s no guarantee the Bissettes’ backyard farm will fly with neighbors next year. “All it would take is for one new resident to oppose it,” said Summer.To keep up the neighborhood’s enthusiasm, the Bissettes said they will send out flyers to correct any issues neighbors have with these feathered friends. They will need to collect 18 signatures by Jan. 1, 2009 to renew the permit. The reason behind the ordinance is to prevent nuisance animals, and it’s working, said Summer. “It’s effective for what it is. We haven’t had problems with animals at all.”The Cole and Bissette families hope to shake that “nuisance animal” perspective. “We’d really like to see chickens reclassified as pets,” said David Bissette. “Rabbits, cats, dogs and ferrets can be a lot more annoying.” He asks skeptics to consider the smell and noise these other pets can produce.Cole is circulating a town-wide petition to amend Wake Forest’s current livestock ordinance by excluding chickens from the definition of livestock. In the meantime, she and her husband Mike actively teach their children, 6-year-old Taylor Anne and 2-year-old Anderson, how to reduce their carbon footprints. “We carpool a lot, we use cloth diapers, and I use soft handkerchiefs on the kids at home because we can wash and reuse them. We have a vegetable garden and three compost piles — but we don’t get any complaints about the smell there,” she said. To read Cole’s online petition for “green eggs” go to

You can visit the Wake Weekly online and see it on the front page, there's a cute photo of Sarah Bissette with one of her pet chickens!

The Wake Forest Gazette also decided to run my article this week. I hope this will bring a lot of people to the Farmer's Market this weekend to sign our petition!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Come See us at the Wake Forest Farmer's Market!

An update:
This Saturday (7/19/08) from 8am-12pm, we'll be at the Wake Forest Farmer's Market. They have graciously offered a space for us to set up an information table and for people to sign the petition. We're also going to have some of the Bissette's hens in a Catawba Brougham ConvertiCoop, so everyone can see how nicely the chickens can be kept. We will be sharing a tent with the Master Gardeners, so come by and say "Hi!"

Monday, July 14, 2008

It appears that Em's postings on this blog and online are reaching an audience. Last week NBC-17 News came out and ran a segment about backyard chickens in Wake Forest on their 7 o'clock news program. Here's a link to the video!

Also, we expect to have an interview with a reporter from The Wake Weekly tomorrow around lunchtime. I'll let you know how that goes afterwards.

Also I found a link to a blog that shows you how to research other municipality's chicken ordinances so that you can assist your local government in crafting a better chicken code than the one they currently have!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Our 15 seconds of fame?

So, after writing the article and submitting it to the site, Kerry Hall, from NBC17 (our local station) contacted me to do a story for the news. It was so nerve wracking! I didn't know what to wear - so I just wore my favorite shirt, a blue/green tie-dye North Carolina Zoo T-shirt, and shorts. I also guess I didn't realize how flat my hair was! I had just spent the morning at the town pool for swim lessons, and of course our weather was warm and humid. Whatever!

SO the interview went pretty well, I was a little nervous, and it was hard to remember what I wanted to say, but in the end it didn't matter so much because 90% of what I said on camera was cut out of the actual segment, or just said by Kerry on the voiceover and that was fine with me! I have to commend Dave on his on-camera session - he seemed very natural and didn't look or sound nervous at all! The children were all great on camera too. I was really proud of them! I hope we are able to gain more community support from this publicity.

You can see the segment online at Battle for Backyard Chickens in Wake Forest. There are actually two segments, one is the short introduction they put into the 6pm newscast, and the other is longer and played at 7pm.

Please feel free to leave comments on this site if you saw the segments!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Welcome to Backyard Chickens for Wake Forest!

Welcome to the Backyard Chickens for Wake Forest blog!

I hope you find information you're looking for here. We are a small group of Wake Forest citizens who are interested in helping Wake Forest join many of the more progressive cities and towns which recognize the need for a more sustainable urban landscape including household food production!
This journey all started when I decided to get some chickens for my backyard. I have been interested in chickens since I was a little girl. There was a family in my downtown Greensboro neighborhood who had some chickens in a large pen in their backyard. I used to sneak over while out playing with friends and watch the chickens. They were very entertaining! Even through the vine-covered fence we hid behind. Once I was married and had children, I didn't really think a lot about having chickens until I saw some on a few of the crafty blogs I read. I thought, 'If these folks can do it in a neighborhood, then I can too!'. I talked with my husband about it and after doing a lot of research, he agreed that it would be a great thing for our family, but that it was MY project, and up to me.
I found out from the town that there is a permit required when you live inside the town limits, and that you have to gain written permission from each neighbor within 500 feet of your property. Whew! This made me back up a second and think about it for a while. I am not a person to go talk to anyone I don't know... and I'm certainly not a person to go door-to-door asking complete strangers for their permission for something! I put the idea on hold, until I could get my plan together.

One evening, my family was out for a bike ride, and as usual, we headed down toward the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. We like to ride there because it's relatively flat (easy on us while toting kids!), and it's nice scenery! On our way there, we rode by a house on the corner near the town park, and boy were we surprised to see what was in their yard! They had a beautiful Chicken Ark, made from oiled cedar, and in it was 2 Rhode Island Red chickens! Wow - we were impressed that they had them, and on our ride back home, we felt lucky to see some children in the yard. We stopped to ask them about their chickens, and eventually talked with their parents about them. We learned that they did go through the permit process, and it wasn't too bumpy of a road for them. This conversation gave me more determination to get the ball rolling on my own chicken endeavor.

Soon, I put together a flyer which detailed some of the questions my neighbors may have had about backyard chickens, and walked them around to each house which was within 500 feet of our property. I taped them right onto the door of each house, and waited a few days before I went back to collect the signatures. I also added a little 'info tube' to my mailbox post in case some homeowners would like to sign the paper and drop it off. I got a total of 9 'yeses' and 2 'nos' within the first week. Unfortunatly, once I got the 'no' answers, my plan had to be attacked from another angle. I decided to go to the town council to have the ordinance changed. I feel that chickens should be considered pets, not livestock in the town ordinance. Certain precautions should be made in order to insure the animals would be well taken care of and not be a neusance, of course. On this blog, I will chronicle the adventure of 'taking it to the town'. I hope you'll join with us and help make the dream of having backyard chickens easier for everyone.
More details to come!
In the meantime, please check the links section for details on my article on the web site, a link to the petition and proposal we're taking to the town council, and David and Mitzi Bissette's local Chicken Ark company, Catawba Convertible Coops!