Allow Backyard Flocks to Remain in Madawaska, Maine

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The backyard flock laws in Madawaska are back on the agenda for the Town Planning Board. The last time this was addressed was in 2012, when the new law proposals were shot down completely by the board.

On the agenda for the emergency Town Meeting that has been called for October 17, 2017 at 4:45pm, are the following topics regarding your flock, among others:

  • Noise
  • Smell
  • Cleanliness & Health
  • Decrease in Property Value
  • Introduction of Predators and Pests

Noise - Laying hens — at their loudest — have about the same decibel level as human conversation (60 to 70 decibels). Hens are so quiet that there have been cases of family flocks being kept for years without the next door neighbors knowing it. To some, noise is a concern with roosters and their pre-dawn heralding of sunrises. Many urban codes ban roosters, or only allow them to be kept with special permits. The noise level of a rooster’s crow is about the same as a barking dog; 90 decibels. But there are ways to keep roosters quiet throughout the night. Many folks regard crowing as a pleasant sound. Roosters crow like songbirds sing, to mark their territory and make the hens aware of their presence.

Smell - Any kept, neglected animals, whether they are livestock or domestic animals can and will lead to filth when not receiving proper care. Flies, disease, and odors quickly arise from lack of care. A small flock of chickens is easy to maintain. 

Cleanliness & Health - The truth is that small flocks have literally no risk of avian flu transmission to humans. There are no communicable diseases between chickens and humans, at all.

Decrease in Property Value - There is not one single documented case that we know of about a next door family flock that has decreased the value of real estate. On the contrary, local foods and living green is so fashionable, that some Realtors and home sellers are offering a free chicken coop with every sale. An example of this at www.GreenWayNews.com

Introduction of Predators and Pests- Predators and rodents are already living in urban areas. Wild bird feeders, pet food, gardens, fish ponds, bird baths, trash waiting to be collected all attract raccoons, foxes, rodents and flies. Modern micro-flock coops, such as chicken tractors arks, and other pens are ways of keeping, and managing, family flocks that eliminate concerns about predators, rodents and other pests.

Indeed, chickens are part of the solution to pesky problems. Chickens are voracious carnivores and will seek and eat just about anything that moves including ticks (think Lymes disease), fleas, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, stink bugs, slugs, and even mice, baby rats and small snakes.  

Now that we've cleared up these common misconceptions about backyard flocks, here are the benefits:

  • Fresh Eggs with Higher Nutritional Value
  • Educational Value for Younger Generations
  • Fertilizer
  • Pest Control
  • Food Waste
  • Therapy
  • Self-Sustainability

Fresh Eggs with Higher Nutritional Value - Eggs from your backyard have been shown to have a far greater nutritional value than store eggs.

There is more than seven times the Vitamin A and Beta Carotene (essential for good eyesight) and almost double the Vitamin E in backyard eggs. When it comes to the essential fatty acid Omega 3 (which is necessary for heart health, healthy cholesterol levels and positive mental and behavioral health) the backyard variety win again with an incredible 292mg, versus a pitiful 0.033mg in store-bought eggs. You’ll also get less saturated fat in backyard eggs.

Educational Value for Younger Generations - Keeping chickens is a great way for kids to learn about nature, agriculture and the responsibility of caring for animals. It’s also a fantastic way for both kids and adults to gain respect for these intelligent creatures that produce food for us.

Did you know chickens have a great memory and can differentiate between over 100 human or animal faces? They love to play, they dream, they mourn for each other and they feel pain and distress. They also make great mothers – they talk to their chicks while still in the egg, and turn the eggs about 50 times a day.

The term ‘pecking order’ didn’t come out of nowhere – hens have an ordered social structure based on a hierarchy. If you make room for them in your back garden, you and your family will get to learn all about these fascinating creatures up close.

Fertilizer - Maybe free chicken manure isn’t something to get too excited about, but if you’re proud of your garden it can work wonders. Chicken manure is actually classed as being one of the most desirable manures due to its high nutrient level. Utilizing this is an important part of sustainable and organic agriculture.

It’s estimated that having between 5 and 10 chickens should produce enough fertilizer to take care of your entire vegetable garden and yard for the year. It’s also great to add to your compost.

Pest Control - When you get your backyard chickens, you’ll have a great excuse to ditch the pesticides and chemical-laden bug killers. Your chickens will do that job for you. They eat pretty much any bug including beetles, slugs, ticks and grasshoppers.

Between a steady supply of fertilizer and a newly slug-free garden, your roses will never have looked so good.

Food Waste - Nationwide, food scraps make up about 17% (29 million tons) of what is sent to landfills, and yard waste is slightly more at 33 million tons. Your chickens can help you out here too!

In addition to some chicken food, they’ll eat pretty much most kitchen scraps – fruit and vegetable peelings, bread, cooked beans, cooked rice, oatmeal, pasta … and the list goes on.

Therapy - Move over cats and dogs, these beautiful creatures could be the next therapy animals! They’re already being used to help those with autism as well as the elderly.

Keeping chickens is seen as therapeutic for children on the autism spectrum by getting the kids involved in feeding and caring for the chickens, thereby promoting independent living skills. They have also been used for patients with dementia and other psychiatric disorders. Because chickens are always moving around, pecking and socializing, they’re seen as calming.

Self-Sustainability - If you already grow your own vegetables and keep a compost heap then you’re heading in the right direction to becoming self-sustaining. Keeping your own chickens is the next step – for the eggs, the pest and weed control and the simple source of fertilizer. Plus, you don’t have to worry about egg shortages or recalls due to salmonella outbreaks!

Why does a flock need a Rooster? I'm really glad you asked!

  • Happier Hens
  • Fertile Eggs
  • Watchdog for the Flock

Happier Hens - The dynamics between hens and a rooster seem to be very important for the girls. Roosters will look after the hens, alert them to food, and even help find them good spots to lay eggs.

Another benefit for the hens is having a dominant bird to run the flock. When a flock consists of only hens, typically one hen will take over and run the flock. This can lead to aggression issues. Some hens even take this position so seriously they will begin to crow. Having a rooster eliminates this problem.

Fertile Eggs - One of the main reason people end up getting a rooster is because they want fertile eggs. This is a huge benefit for homesteaders, as they will be able to replace their own flock without having to buy new stock. Heritage and dual-purpose breeds of hens are more apt to brood their own eggs.

Watchdog for the Flock - While the average rooster probably won’t attack a large predator threatening his flock, he is far more alert than hens which means he will warn the flock of danger. Sometimes this early alert system to a fox or a hawk can mean all the difference for the hens to have the time to hide or run.

I personally, have kept chickens for over 2 years now. For the last year and a half, I have kept them within Madawaska's town lines. Over this year and a half, not a single customer from the business next door (and we see hundreds a week) has ever once had a negative thing to say about our flock. On the contrary, most people remark on how clean it is, how fun it is the watch and feed them, how beautiful they are, and of course, inquired about buying eggs.

I also enjoy bringing the local children (just as much as they do!) out to the coop with a handful of food to feed them! They have so many questions, and while I may not always know the answer, they're learning something valuable in life.

Cities like New York City; San Francisco; Seattle; Portland, Ore.; and Vancouver, British Columbia all allow chickens. Isn't it time Madawaska puts a law on the books protecting our flocks?



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