Jeff Gaglio’s three pet chickens, Marsala, Chicken McChickenface and Larry, come to him at his Clawson home Sept. 20.

Jeff Gaglio’s three pet chickens, Marsala, Chicken McChickenface and Larry, come to him at his Clawson home Sept. 20.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Clawson to hold town hall meeting on chickens

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published September 25, 2018

  Jeff Gaglio, of Clawson, holds one of his chickens, Marsala, at his home Sept. 20. The city plans to host a community town hall meeting next month to discuss chicken ownership and subsequently clarify and update its ordinance.

Jeff Gaglio, of Clawson, holds one of his chickens, Marsala, at his home Sept. 20. The city plans to host a community town hall meeting next month to discuss chicken ownership and subsequently clarify and update its ordinance.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

CLAWSON — After a spirited discussion of chicken ownership during a Sept. 18 City Council meeting, council members voted unanimously to suspend for 90 days enforcement of violation letters that were taped to the doors of four chicken owners.

Whether for or against the cultivation of chickens, all parties seemed to agree that the city of Clawson is in need of a new pecking order. Officials will hold a community town hall meeting on the topic at 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at Clawson City Hall, 425 N. Main St. 

The form letters, dated Sept. 5, stated that residents had 14 days to remove their chickens and that their properties had been under inspection since 2017. Several felt that their Fourth Amendment rights had been violated.

The present ordinance was updated in 1973 to only allow chickens from 100 feet to 500 feet from a neighbor’s lot line. In 2011, the ordinance was amended to allow two chickens, but “was silent about a single one,” City Attorney Jon Kingsepp said.

Jeff Gaglio, a chicken owner, said he was initially outraged when he received the letter, but he forged friendships with fellow chicken owners and wanted to work with the city on the fair regulation of chickens.

“The city ordinance does not state it’s unlawful to own chickens,” he said, adding that the language includes how to keep a poultry yard. “As written, it does not abide by due process. It’s unenforceable. There’s nowhere in the city of Clawson with 500 feet from a neighbor’s lot.”

Maria Tyra, who currently owns one chicken, said she has owned chickens for the last eight years.

“I cannot stress enough that these chickens are pets and should be forwarded the same consideration given to family pets like cats, dogs, ferrets, rabbits, parrots and other birds, just to name a few,” she said.

She said she was glad that the city suspended enforcement of the violation, but that she was upset that it took a week to hear back from Kingsepp and that she never heard back from the code enforcement office.

Two residents who received letters said they asked the city four years ago if it was OK for them to own chickens and that they received the green light, as long as the animals were kept to clean standards.

Barb Chambers, a Clawson code enforcement officer, said the city told her to get the letters out and that it “had to be done because of the complaints.” Of the four residents who received letters, she said, two had complaints, and she had received tips about the other two.

“That’s when the fire broke loose, and they all wanted to know why. Then the council said it shouldn’t have been done that way,” Chambers said. 

She added that she recently found out that Clawson elementary schools allowed chicks to go home with students, and Tyra said she knew of at least two families in the city whose chickens were from that initiative.

Mayor Pro Tem Matt Ulbrich said he had no knowledge of chickens in the city prior to the backlash. He added that he thinks the current ordinance is “poorly written,” but that he is most frustrated by the handling of the issue by city staff.

“This is not a recent ordinance. These ordinances have been on the books for decades,” Ulbrich said. “I think our problem is somewhat our ordinance, but the biggest problem is a lack of consistency in enforcing that ordinance.”

He added that, despite an overwhelmingly favorable view of chickens expressed by those who attended the Sept. 18 council meeting, the city has received complaints against chickens through social media and other channels.

“I would like to have a calm debate discussing the merits and demerits of housing chickens,” Ulbrich said. “I want us to explore and see if we can come to a solution that’s good for everyone.”

Councilwoman Paula Millan said she had received several calls and emails that day from people who were not on the chicken bandwagon.

“I think we can all work together to resolve this nicely in a way that will make everyone happy,” Millan said. “The key is to get the administration on board to fall in line and keep things consistent.”

Councilman Howie Airriess agreed on the need for further discussions.

“I think we will have to sit down and work on some restrictions and get things in a situation so we can get these things in the city and have everybody be happy, maybe even get an egg or two,” Airriess said.

Chambers said violations of the city’s ordinance result in a civil infraction, which carries a $75 fine for the first notice and, depending on the frequency and the severity of the violation, can go up to $500.

For more information, call the city of Clawson at (248) 435-4500 or visit www.cityofclawson.com.