Published Date Written by Barbara TetreaultYou can't beat a fresh egg
By Sarah Kinney
Some Berlin residents are looking to change the zoning limitations on chickens to allow for a small number of hens in single-family residential areas.
Currently, chickens are only allowed in rural residential areas with special exception from the Zoning Board.
Lynn Lipari hopes to widen the allowance so more residents can have fresh eggs for personal use.
"I've always wanted to have chickens," Lipari said.
At the May 20 City Council meeting, Lipari addressed the council about the issue during public comments. Crystal and Jason Carpenter also spoke in favor of backyard hens.
Another Berlin resident contacted City Councilor Paula Benski about the possibility of allowing chickens in the urban compact.
Lipari envisions that the new policy would limit the number of hens depending on lot size (no more than 4 to 5 hens, no roosters), make the eggs for personal use only, and register hens much like cats or dogs. Manure would have to be stored in sealed containers and hen houses built at least 15 feet from property lines to proper specifications.
She has organized stacks of information from policies on backyard chickens from towns as close as Gorham to as far as Salem, Oregon. Concord, NH voted in February to allow backyard chickens and much of what Lipari proposes is based off their policies.
"I want to get this passed in a way that it will make would be hen owners and their neighbors happy," Lipari said.
Mayor Paul Grenier requested that Lipari and the Carpenters leave their contact information with the city clerk to schedule a time to make a formal presentation to the council.
"There seems that there is potential for conversation," said Jason Carpenter.
By owning hens, the nutritional value of eggs are better, they reduce an individual's carbon footprint by not shipping eggs, and factory farming of chickens can be cruel. Additionally, it gives citizens the chance not only to know where their food comes from but also be responsible for it, Lipari explained.
"I want to know the eggs I am eating come from healthy, well-cared for chickens," Lipari said.
Owning chickens can be a less expensive food source, as they produce hundreds of eggs on a diet of kitchen scraps and bugs.
A chicken can eat three times its weight in bugs, Crystal Carpenter said.
Chicken manure is also good for garden compost.
The only concern Lipari has heard so far was that the chickens would smell and one resident thought some people who are irresponsible will want to raise chickens. She thinks all the regulations will prevent that.
She explained one chicken only needs about four square feet of space, and when properly cared for, hens are quieter and less smelly than the average dog.
Typically, another concern is that backyard chickens will bring down property values. In most cases, that does not happen. Often, by having backyard farming property values actually increase, according to "Of Backyard Chickens and Front Yard Gardens" by Sarah B. Schindler.
Lipari started organizing with a "Berlin, NH Residents for Backyard Chickens" Facebook group and is circulating an informal petition.
This is not the first time there have been requests for chickens in residential zones.
In April 2009, Laura Jamison requested consideration for both chickens and bees to the planning board. The board decided that it was an inappropriate use of the zone and that though current neighbors are amenable to the idea, new ones may not be.
Benski said the past reasons may be enough to prevent chickens.