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Kalamazoo is going to the birds: 'There's something about having ... chickens' - MLive.com

Source: Kalamazoo Gazette
Date: August 4, 2009
Byline: Freddy Hunt

KALAMAZOO — Growing up in rural East Leroy near Battle Creek, Lee Velo enjoyed his family's backyard chickens and the fresh eggs they produced.

Now, as a father of two, Velo hopes to provide the same experience for his children, but inside the city limits of Kalamazoo.

Velo was among nearly 100 people — and five fowl — who on Monday attended the "Is That a Hen In Your Yard?" informational meeting at the Kalamazoo Public Library.

Lisa Williams, event coordinator for Kalamazoo Public Library and its branches, said backyard chicken coops are becoming more popular in urban areas. She worked with the food-advocacy group, Eat Local, Kalamazoo, to organize the meeting and provide information to city residents about how to legally and properly raise chickens.

"People are desiring to go to a simpler way of living, and there's something about having a couple chickens in your backyard that gives you that feeling of a simpler life," she said.

When Lori Evesque, a board member for the local food-advocacy group Fair Food Matters, asked who in the room was interested in raising chickens, nearly everyone raised a hand.

Evesque attributes the interest to an increasing concern for food safety and the desire to eat locally produced items.

Not everyone is able to keep a henhouse in the backyard, however.

Most cities either prohibit chickens or don't have an ordinance regarding them, but more and more are making changes in response to the growing trend, Evesque said.

After Evesque shared how to properly care for chickens, build an adequate coop and where to find a few hens, local attorney Suzanne Klein explained how to keep the coop legal inside city limits.

Chickens, ducks, geese and other poultry must be kept in a sanitary condition, free of offensive odors and in an enclosed yard or coop 30 feet from the street line or adjacent property line, according to a Kalamazoo ordinance.

"That's pretty restrictive for a city law, but it's possible," Klein said.

She said she has inquired about chicken ordinances in Kalamazoo's surrounding townships and should soon have that information available on the Eat Local, SW Michigan Yahoo page, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EatLocalSWMich/.