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Chicken ordinance introduced in Clinton Township

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published June 24, 2019

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Chickens may officially come to roost in Clinton Township.

At a June 17 Board of Trustees meeting, an ordinance was introduced to allow people to keep chickens on parcels less than 5 acres. It is expected to be approved at the board’s next meeting, July 1.

Clinton Township Building Department Superintendent Barry Miller said that permits will be required to keep chickens on premises zoned residential or used for residential purposes. Neighbors have to consent in writing to residentially zoned adjacent properties having chickens.

The township used to not allow chickens at all. Miller said residents had to have a “bona-fide farm,” complete with farm animals.

“This would allow residents a little flexibility to have chickens as long as all neighbors will sign off on it,” he said.

If the Board of Trustees approves the ordinance, the Building Department will act on permits within 21 business days of applications being submitted. Any permit denial would be subject to appeal by the Board of Trustees, which would have to act within 21 days of any such appeal.

Permits would last for a period of three years, and a renewal for a new permit would need to be filed at least 30 days before expiration.

The ordinance limits people to no more than four hens per property; no noise can come from the chickens that would disturb surrounding property owners; and no chickens should be slaughtered, nor should any eggs be sold in plain sight. The ordinance would apply to single-family and two-family dwellings.

Miller said the township has “been dealing with quite a few complaints over the years regarding these (chickens).” The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development has generally accepted practices for such ordinances.

The township has lost court cases involving chickens. The Zoning Board of Appeals ruled in one case, while the state ruled in another. It was time for an amended rulebook, officials said.

“The township is not legally allowed to stop people from having farm animals by way of acreage,” Miller said. “It kind of put us in a bad spot. … We had to basically zone them out completely, or allow them with restrictions. We chose to go with restrictions, because we have had quite a few residents over the years who asked to have them.”

In recent years, Clinton Township surpassed 100,000 residents, rendering guidelines within the Michigan Right to Farm Act — enacted in 1981 — obsolete.

The ordinance only allows for hens. Roosters are not allowed.

Miller, who actually owns chickens in the community in which he lives, said many people buy chickens and don’t know for months whether they are male or female, but “you figure it out quick.”

“There’s a misconception on roosters,” he said. “People think they crow first thing in the morning. They crow all day long. … Sunup to sundown, it’s nonstop, and they’re loud.”

As for the selling of eggs, he said the ordinance is aimed more toward roadside stands that could be monitored by Building Department staff. As for what happens behind closed doors, he admits it would be “nearly impossible” to monitor.

Individuals who have three complaints filed and verified against them would be issued a violation from the Building Department, leading to a revoked permit — one that could not be renewed.

“It gives us a little bit of teeth to keep things the way we designed it,” Miller said.