Changing Albany's chicken laws

Chickens in coop

Ain't nobody here but ...

Albany residents Michael Guidice and Jen Pursley keep a handful of chickens in a coop in their Grand Street backyard. Or, they did -- until last week, when code enforcement officers knocked on their door and let them know the chickens would have to go.

Now Michael and Jen, along with 1st Ward Councilman Dominick Calsolaro and a handful of supporters, are working to change Albany's law -- and show people that keeping urban chickens can be a small step toward a sustainable downtown.

It was actually legal to keep chickens in Albany until 2001. It was also legal to keep ducks, pigs, cows horses and any other farm animal. But a pet rooster in Pine Hills changed all that.

"The rooster belonged to a child over on North Allen Street," says 13th Ward Councilman Dan Herring. "The lots there are small and the rooster was bothering neighbors." So Herring proposed city ordinance #115-31, and the council passed it in December of 2001. Here's what it says:

No person shall keep, harbor, or shelter any farm animal or fowl within the City of Albany. For purposes of this article, farm animal or fowl shall include cows, cattle, horses, ponies, donkeys, mules, pigs, goats, sheep, chickens, ducks, geese, or other animals or fowl usually known as "farm animals or fowl," but not solely limited to the aforementioned and not including common household pets.

So, no chickens.

The law does allow for an "educational variance." Under that variance, the Albany Free School, which has been keeping chickens since the 1970s, continues to operate a chicken coop. Jen and Michael live next to the Free School and were hoping they'd be covered by the variance. It turns out they're not. They've had their coop for 10 years but recently, someone squawked.

Michael & Thatcher.JPG

For now they've moved their chickens to the Free School coop, but for Michael and Jen, the issue is bigger than their own chicken coop.

Says Michael: "We realized the other day that we could probably arrange to get our coop covered under the variance, because we use our chickens to help teach kids from the Youth Organics program, but we thought this is an awesome opportunity. We actually, as a city, have all these amazing, vibrant organizations working on the issue of sustainability and this could be a way to show that and to take our city towards coding that allows more sustainable practices -- so why not actually make this a citywide issue. Why not actually change this for the better."

The idea of sustainability is big in the Grand Street neighborhood, where Mike and Jen live. In addition to the Youth Organics program and the Free School, there's also a community bread oven. And the neighborhood will soon be home to the Radix Center, which will be dedicated to teaching people about sustainable practices like composting, aquaculture and reclaiming soil in the city.

chickens 2.jpg

The case for chickens

Cities like New York, Chicago, Austin, Texas and Portland, Oregon have laws that allow hens to be kept in city limits.

"Chickens are perfect for city life," says Jen. "They're small, easily contained, relatively quiet and clean if you just provide minimal maintenance."

For Jen and Mike, keeping them increases their own self sufficiency and helps teach their kids where their food comes from. "We involve our kids in cleaning the coop and getting the eggs. You know, people are so far removed from where the food comes from. The only thing they carry is salmonella, and all you need is a little education about washing your hands and washing the eggs."

chickens 3.jpg

The case against chickens

But is one person's bid for a sustainable city another person's -- well -- smelly chicken coop next door?

"Sustainability probably won't carry the day on this one," says Dan Herring. "I have a feeling that if it is actually presented to the public, the number of people not wanting to live next door to chickens will outweigh the people that want it. I don't remember anyone coming to oppose the ordinance when we first proposed it. When we were writing the law we got an opinion from the SUNY School of Public Health that said that farm animals can cause a public health problem in cities. I'm sure you couldn't get more responsible than the people who are proposing this, but not everyone will be, and it will be costly to oversee."

Harold Van Schoick, the liason for Buildings and Codes in Albany, says there haven't been many violations of the current ordinance. "We get a few -- usually a few months after Easter, as the chicks kids get for presents grow up."

Van Schoick used to live on a farm. Having never lived near chickens we asked what it's like. "They do smell." But Van Schoick says they had thousands of chickens on the farm and the fewer chickens you keep, the less of a problem the smell becomes.

The next step

The group supporting urban chickens here found a Portland, Oregon law that outlines guidelines and restrictions for keeping chickens.

"Portland has very progressive coding in their city that allows for a lot of sustainability minded resident programs," says Michael. "We borrowed from a law there which includes permitting fees, so it could be income for the city, and includes specifics about enclosures and the structures in which chickens can be kept and eliminates roosters from being kept."

First ward councilman Dominck Calsolaro is rewriting the Portland law to make it more appropriate for Albany, and will propose it to the Common Council for discussion on December 6th.

"When the current law was enacted," Calsolaro says, "we went from everything to nothing -- from allowing all farm animals to an overall ban. Maybe we should have looked at something in between. The Portland law is pretty well defined, and requires permitting and health department inspections. It has to be clean and you need to have space. I'm just bringing it up for discussion."

Jen, Mike and their supporters are looking for like-minded people in other wards. "We need people to sign and carry petitions and drum up support."

"Ordinances like 115-31," says Mike, "came about when the ideas of liveability, sustainability, localism and local agriculture weren't so prevalent. Back then when people were thinking 'Am I going to live in a city?' those weren't things they considered. So I don't really think it's fighting against a law that people really want."

Earlier and elsewhere:

+ There apparently is a bit of a backyard chicken boom right now (with some doubts). Urban chicken advocates say there are a handful of reasons to have a few hens out back (you know, in addition to the eggs).
+ As Naomi reported last year, it is legal to keep chickens in Troy -- but not in Albany or Schenectady.
+ Here's a video tour of Emily Armstrong's chicken setup in South Troy
+ One of the Emily's hens was recently chicken-napped

chicken photos courtesy of Michael Guidice and Jen Pursely


I grew up on a farm. Chickens are relatively mellow unless harassed, and their coops actually aren't that smelly if properly cared for (at least in my experience). I would absolutely be OK with chickens next door, and would even consider keeping them myself. I probably wouldn't be alright with a rooster, for obvious reasons, but I'm open.

Chickens can't possibly be any noisier than my neighbor's dog barking all night long.

Fortunately, you can still keep dead chickens inside your house. :)

The exemptions depend on getting the City Clerk's permission, which leaves is all a bit arbitrary. Except of course for the specifically named Normanskill Farm.

On January 1, 2011 the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets will no longer provide dog tags, issue license renewals or maintain dog licensing data as a service to municipalities. Municipalities currently authorized to issue dog licenses will assume the remainder of the dog licensing function.

I'm coincidentally filling out my dog's license now and writing a check for $12.50 ($10 goes to Albany and $2.50 goes to the state). I can only assume that the fee for licensing the dog covers the costs of the program (and enforecement).

Why not license chickens in the exact same way? It would control numbers, if there is a complaint and/or negligence then the owner can be held accountable, and the fee generated would cover the cost of oversight. Why reinvent the wheel? The city could require owners to post the paperwork in a moisture proof bag on the coop - much like the keg law). So if animal control comes by then the number of chickens and the owner's info is readily available.

Is that a chicken joke?

Chickens (including the smell) are much better than some of the human neighbors I've endured over the years.

On a somewhat related note, I actually remember when there was still an outdoor market on the site of the Times Union Center in the late 70s. I was very little and there wasn't much of a market left by then. Just two or three stalls early in the morning on weekends. The one thing I remember most about that remnant of the market was the chickens. There was always at least one small pen of sorts with a few chickens.

Oh please. More young hipsters playing farmer so they can pretend they’re saving the planet. Do you know how many chickens you’d have to raise to truly subside on? These smug bozos eating a few eggs a week are doing nothing to save the planet.

The average American eats 2,175 pounds of food per year (Pimentel, David, Giampietro, Mario (1994). Food, Land, Population and the U.S. Economy). Even if you were to cut that in half, there is no way microfarming could meet that demand. Around here, you’d need around 3 acres of land, under constant and laborious cultivation, to meet your caloric needs in a year, and that’s with pesticides and fertilizer.

Organic farming is placebo yuppies love to embrace, ignoring the fact that without modern agricultural techniques, a global population of 7 billion and growing would be impossible.

Dove - A) You are not very nice, B) No one is saying they are going to save the world and subside solely on what they are growing in their small urban backyards and C) Every little bit helps and it's better to be part of the solution than the problem.

So we are going to need help to make this happen Albany! We need to get a good base of support for the Dec. 6th council meeting If your interested in lending a hand and carrying petitions please contact me at:



for updates about when the chickens will come home to roost follow me on twitter @michaeltg09 or hashtag #albanychickens

Oh and Dove I turned 30 over the summer and have been fearing my first grey. "Young Hipster" i'll totally take that, Thanks dude.

@Dove - if we all thought like you, we'd be screwed for sure.

@ Dove

Good job in generalizing who the people are that want to see the microstock ordinance through. I'm going to bet you don't know any of them. I support the idea and I'm definately no hipster, I think. Maybe the latter...

Second, you post a statistic that reports "The average American eats 2,175 pounds of food per year." Where did anyone say "I'm going to live on Chicken meat and eggs." Yea, we'll be eating other stuff too, and chances are, at least in my house, it will be locally produced. I'm not trying to feed the world. I'm trying to feed myself wholesome, non-modified, tasty, and environmentally/socially conscious food. Google "Egg scare" and see what comes up.

I honestly have no idea what you're talking about in your "placebo" statement. Claiming that the world will starve if people are allowed to raise their own chickens is just plain absurd.

Thanks AOA for giving coverage to this story. You guys are always on top of the latest news in the city, and should be commended for it.

And thanks Dove for helping to fuel our supporters and anyone who believes being a part of their food cycle is important. While we probably could never (nor would want to) solely subsist on our chickens, our little backyard flock provided us with dozens of eggs a week, which was more than enough to substantially meet our family of four's protein needs. 

There's really nothing new or "hip" about producing your own food. I'm pretty sure people have been doing it for millennia. Our neighbors at the Free School have been doing it since the 70's, and they're pretty old now and remarkably unhip (haha, sorry Chris!)

In more productive news, come out on Dec. 6th to show your support if you believe in a better Albany.

@Dove Hey Hipster!

Let me get this straight. I can walk into petco right now & purchase a 1,000 dollar bird that looks like Toucan Sam without anyone batting an eye. I can get a pitbull with an attitude problem for free off of craigslist. I have to put several fences up around my vegetable garden because our neighborhood is overrun with rabbits. But chickens are the controversial animal. Okay, got it. Makes perfect sense.

If there's a way to legalize backyard chickens without legalizing backyard roosters, I'm on board. :D

this woman fought and won in providence, RI. :

I'd be happy to do what I can to support the ability to have chickens within the city.

On a side note, is this the same Jen Pursley from Hounds on Hudson?

It's a code that should be changed, no doubt, but the idea that changing it will lead to a sustainable downtown is ridiculous. Raising chickens is such a completely niche activity. Something catastrophic would have to happen to turn Albany in a city of self-sustaining chicken farmers.

But seriously, good luck!

This 30+ year old "young hipster" can't wait to have chickens as soon as she gets a little land!

Our chickens produced very cheap organic eggs for several families who shared chicken care. Organic eggs in Albany cost $5.95- 7.00 per dozen (it's expensive to be certified organic) and the mostly come from wisconson. I encourage everyone who isn't keeping chickens to buy from our awesome local organic farms, but keeping your own ends up being very cost effective. Each month, we'd spend about $30 on organic feed and straw for 9 birds. That's about a dollar a day for roughly 6 eggs, or $2 a dozen for organic eggs from sweet pets. Also, we can see that they're healthy, know what they're eating, and they give our kids a good connection to food. I'm sure the specific costs will vary by household, but chickens are really great. With a small flock they won't poop any more than a dog, and a no rooster ordinance will take care of any noise complaints. I really don't understand why anyone is against legalizing chickens.

First off, re: Dove -- his/her comment was mean-spirited and thus hardly helpful or constructive. Can't we disagree without demonizing?

With that out of the way, Mike and Jen seem like awesome people, and I don't mean to be a killjoy, but I would not support this. Mike and Jen are best-case scenario people. When you create a law, they are not the responsible folks you worry about. I have people that walk on my block who can't be counted on to pick up after their dog poo next to my sidewalk, near where my kid plays (and yes, there's a law requiring you to pick up your dog poop). Good luck getting Albany's codes people to enforce the law for folks who aren't nearly as responsible as Mike and Jen. Even in the best of budgetary times, I'd have a hard time seeing this enforced properly to control folks who are not as responsible as this couple. And these aren't the best of budgetary times.

One of the great things about living in the city is the closeness of houses (and thus, the possibility of closeness to your neighbors) and its walkability. Despite the noble sustainability goals, a city is not a suburb, or the country, and shouldn't be treated as one.

I like urban living. I fully support sustainable living, but where do you draw the line?

Our local farmers are struggling. They should be supported. Part of urban living is going to the market, partly for the experience. What we need in this city are more farmers markets, more opportunities and places for local farmers to sell their products. I want to support our local farmers. That's sustainability and inter-dependability.

So, I guess, I ask, where do you want to live? Is it a city? If yes, then there needs to be a nod toward urban living, and living sustainably within those confines -- more bike lanes, building to the scale of the pedestrian, fewer drive-thru's, local stores that support local products (and, yes, by all means, that support local farms). That's no knock on Mike and Jen. But IMHO, it's not what an urban ideal should be about, either. Intrinsically, an urbanite is not a farmer.

Beaver- you're saying it very nicely, but i still really don't understand why you're against people having chickens. There will be no roosters, they won't be out on the sidewalks, and if you're not walking through your neighbor's backyards, how exactly are the chickens affecting you?
I think it's really defeatist to outlaw this for everyone on the assumption that someone might keep chickens irresponsibly (they could be doing so right now). As with any pet (or children, for that matter) education and empowerment about caring for them are the key. If neighbors complain about roosters, animal control will be called to ticket the owners and/or take the rooster away. That's true now as it would be if this code were changed.
Also, I'm sure that people with chickens will very likely be interested in healthy local food and will probably shop from local farmers for their other needs. If that's really your problem, why aren't you protesting Community Gardens for enabling people to grow their own vegetables?
PS- I'd draw the line at elephants.

I live across the street from Mike and Jen and have been friends with them for years. Im a Permaculture practitioner, and Ive said the same thing that Beaver's said to them many times: in terms of space, money and time it doesn't make sense to me. It makes way more sense to support your local farmer.
That being said, food security and access to food is a human right. Mike is not necessarily doing this because it makes economic sense, he's doing it because he wants a personal connection to his food, and he wants his kids to have that same connection. As his neighbor, I don't see why it's anybody else's business what he does on his own property, as long as he's not hurting anyone.
Second, urban animals have been around as long as there have been urban centers. I'd guess that most cities in the world allow animals bigger than chickens. There is absolutely no basis to say that animals do not belong in cities. There's lots of people in cities, and people need to eat food, and it's better that we grow it here than truck it in with fossil fuels and destroy the planet. It's also better if we can feed the chickens compost instead of trucking it into landfills. So I guess from a Permaculture perspective, on a municipal level it makes perfect economic sense.
Finally, with corporations like monsanto increasingly trying to patent and monopolize our entire food stream and the government raiding raw milk sellers with guns drawn, I think it becomes very important at some point to take ownership of our food as a political act. I went to see Vandana Shiva speak on Tuesday, and this was precisely her call. If we do not own our food someone is going to own it for us. There is right now a law in congress written by Monsanto that would require small farms down to household size to conform to industrial standards of health and safety. This is being written to burden small farms with such high costs that they cease to operate. By growing their own food and resisting this unjust law Mike and Jen are resisting this movement and supporting the right of small farmers to exist.

Great comment @Beaver. I think we agree a lot on what makes cities great. Walkability, alt. transit infrastructure, vibrant local economies. What also makes cities great is the rapid exchange of ideas and stuffs. Cities are in a constant state of flux, changing and shaping themselves in response to the problems of the day and the passions of its citizen. Regulations, planning and codes should be a means to those ends as well.

So lets go through your concerns @Beaver. I think Daleyplanit a couple of posts back does a great job in addressing enforcement issues. "I can only assume the fee for licensing the chickens covers the enforcement and program." Simple.

I would ask you to consider this as well, raising a handful of backyard birds does'nt hurt the local farmer. It frees the local farmer to move towards more value-added products, artisan cheese, specialty meats, etc.(a visit to any farmers market shows this is already the trend) It deepens the web of the local food economy and makes it stronger.

The proposed amendment to code 115-31 :(
if read closley also contains provisions for noise, health and building issues. A well thought out and well drafted amendment. Really a case of no harm no fowl (sorry i couldn't resist).

Finally @beaver i agree, we have to make a choice. However its not the choice you are presenting. The scope of what is urban is only limited by our own imagination. The "choice" is whether we as urbanites help shape and steer our city to meet the horizon of the future. Those bike lanes we both profess to love were hard earned after years of work by people like you and me who choose to participate in the discussion and offer new and innovative ideas to age old problems. This is how the face of this great city changes, and that @beaver is what being an urbanite is all about.

Chickens are friendly birds, and if they're raised in close contact with people, are egg-laying pets, not just farm animals. Hens are quiet - they make about as much noise as a pigeon. Most city people don't want a rooster - you don't need one to get eggs. Chickens are good for the grass and eliminate the tick population with gusto. If you can smell them from next door, you've got more problems than stink - no animal should have to live in its own poo. If they are kept humanely, you won't smell a thing.

Just enforce common-sense rules about sanitation and noise, and you do not need to ban female chickens from Albany.

I think AOA has become the new town meeting.

The way I see it, microlivestock isn't incompatible with urban life at all and inter-dependability doesn't only exist at the sacrifice autonomous development. Chickens and other microlivestock (which, Beaver, is where I would draw the line. It makes much more sense to raise microlivestock in a city than large animals) are perfectly suited for urban life. They require little space, make little noise (with the exception of roosters, which for obvious reasons would be prohibited) and produce very little smell when properly maintained. Considering that chickens are found in cities all over the world, it's a bit ethnocentric to think otherwise.

I agree with Rana that it's defeatist to outlaw something on the assumption of irresponsibility. People are going to act responsibly or not regardless of the law and many are going to engage in a desired activity regardless of it's legality (need I site the obvious example of smoking marijuana?) Prohibiting something that isn't dangerous only leads to less regulation and less enforcement which doesn't necessarily produce the best outcome. Most people who want to raise chickens realize that it's in their own best interest to treat them well and maintain a clean coop--you don't get good eggs otherwise.

As far as budget and enforcement go, I'd imagine it wouldn't be too costly to have a building and codes officer check up on a coop and issue a "cease and desist" order if necessary. That is their job after all and in part why I pay close to $12,000 a year in property taxes.

So the answer to your question, Beaver, is yes; I do want to live in a city. Like you, I like the proximity of houses, the walkability, the public transportation, the ability to support small businesses, the easy access to resources and on and on and on. I certainly tip my hat to the wonderful aspects that make up city life. It's why I choose to own my house, a business, and raise my kids here. Fortunately, living in a city doesn't necessitate giving up our ability to provide for ourselves on some level and to be intrinsically connected to the food we eat. Indeed, as we move forward in the 21st century, it will become a vital aspect to urban life.

Fundamentally, the question you need to ask is, would you be OK with having chickens next door who are not owned by responsible folks like Mike and Jen, but owned by the lowest common denominator -- someone who doesn't clean up after them, who doesn't close their fence gate and let's them run loose on your property, who sneaks a rooster in there (you're going to rely on Albany Codes to tell the difference?). And before you can say "well, that's an enforcement issue," let me ask how many of you have tried to get the city to enforce quieting a neighbor's constantly barking dog, or a neighbor that leaves their trash cans out all week long, or a neighbor with one of those open-air fireplace pits that pollute and ruin the summer air and force you to close all your windows on a breezy summer night.

@Jenny, I agree our taxes should pay for more. I pay a lot in city taxes, too. But let's say someone is successful and the city responds to a neighbor's complaint? It sort of poisons that relationship between neighbors from that point on, no matter who is in the right, and who is in the wrong. We all need to live together. We don't need to be in our respective backyards shooting dirty looks at each other during our Fourth of July barbecues.

I also don't see how licensing fees would cover the cost of adding additional enforcement duties and/or officers, both in terms of time, salary, and pension costs. You'd either need a ton of chickens in the city, or the licensing fees would be so high as to be prohibitive to many to owning them, thus defeating the purpose.

I appreciate everyone's enthusiasm, and the chance to debate this like reasonable adults (such a digression from blogs like those on the TU and other newspapers -- thanks AOA -- @Arielle: I love that this is the new town meeting hall.). For me, and we can agree to disagree, but the answer is still no, or at least a very qualified "no."

There's apparently a law already on the books that would exempt folks like Mike and Jen based on educational purposes. It would seem to basically be an "out" for responsible folks like them. I would hazard to guess that most of the commenters and readers of AOA, by and large, could also get the same exemption -- we all seem like responsible folks. It's a way to make everyone happy, without opening the floodgates. Myself, I'd probably be OK with having Mike and Jen and their chickens as neighbors. I wouldn't be happy with just anybody doing it. That's why exemptions exist.

I have to agree with @Dylan on the corporate-ization of farms and foods. Scares the hell out of me, and if successful, it will kill off small family farms. From a purely political perspective, yes, I would agree with Mike and Jen and what they want to do. But we don't live in a purely political world. We also live in a practical one.

There is an angle not being considered here:

This discussion has become far to complicated. This is simply a matter of individual and property rights. Is having a small number of chickens (no roosters) really that bad that we are willing to restrict someone's basic choice to have them?

Everyone would think it is unethical for their to be a code against dog ownership - the same is true with chickens.

For people questioning code enforcement, wasn't it the successful enforcement of current city law that caused this issue to come to the forefront? If the proposed licensing, with appropriate fees, is put into effect, there's no reason to assume that Albany would be suddenly unable to handle people who aren't raising chickens in a clean and lawful manner.

We have fairly safe roads in the United States, due to licensing, despite the lowest common denominator. Point being, you don't inhibit reasonable change due to fear. If it doesn't work, the law can be repealed. After all, it was initially created due to one loud rooster.


Fundamentally, the question you need to ask is, would you be OK with having dogs next door who are not owned by responsible folks like Mike and Jen, but owned by the lowest common denominator -- someone who doesn't clean up after them, who doesn't close their fence gate and let's them run loose on your property.

It works both ways. Seriously though, I think dogs have a much higher potential for noise, damage, and just about every other concern you have, than chickens do. In fact, I'm sure while you couldn't find a single example of a shoddy, disgusting chicken coop, I'd walk down most any street downtown and find a dog not being taken care of, dog crap lying around, loud barking at night, etc.

The difference is that dogs are so common that we would hardly consider banning them, even if it's more rational than banning other animals such as chickens.

@Ken: No, I wouldn't want that dog-owner living near me. We had one, and it was a problem until they moved away.

The issue, and I hate to put it this way because it may come out poorly (so I apologize in advance -- no offense is intended), is almost one of self-interest vs. we're-all-in-this-togetherness. Ironically, that "we're-all-in-this-together-ness" is part of what Mike and Jen want to do (I believe) with sustainability, and I guess I am just seeing now that even the goal of sustainability has some fault lines. I'm just trying to keep it open for discussion.

Clearly I'm in the minority here, but count me on the non-Libertarian side of things, at least in an urban setting. To me, it's a question of what I want on my property vs. how it impact my neighbors, whether it is chickens, a barking dog, a smoky firepit, a loud stereo, junk cars, stacking trash on the curb three days before pick-up, etc. In the suburbs and especially way out in the country, these issues are lessened to some extent because of the larger property lots. The lots here in the city are much smaller, so these things become magnified.

Without even knowing them, I have no doubt that Mike and Jen would be cooperative and neighborly. As I've stated twice, I'm not worried about them (and again, exemptions seem to exist on the books for people as responsible as they are). I just hope that if this law is changed, it takes into the consideration of all surrounding folks and not just the chicken owners (and Roscoe, that too is my property right -- to be able to enjoy my property without hassle). The proposed amendment at the link that @MickyG referenced seems to be a nice start in that balance, though there seems to be some discrepancy between the 15-foot rule and the 50-foot rule in the item at that link. And the current single $315 fine does not seem like enough of a stick to me (perhaps $315 per week would have more teeth).

Look, I was just honestly answering the question posed "would you be OK living next door to chickens?" I personally wouldn't -- I moved to Albany to get away from the suburbs, and the country never appealed to me as a home. But best of luck in your efforts.


Don't worry, I have no ill will. I just like debating issues of this nature. :)

My concern is actually that most people would be hypocritical and support one animal over another, when both have similar problems. Although in this case, one has a more tangible benefit (eggs and perhaps education, versus companionship). Any dog owner against chicken coops is showing incredible bias.

While I absolutely disagree with you, kudos for not being hypocritical about the matter, as I suppose many of those against chickens in an urban environment are being as they walk their dogs down the street every day.

More food for thought:

Here's a couple articles on the bill in the senate that I referred to earlier. I'm posting it here partly because it's relevant but also because I think it's something everyone should know about.

Hens only, permit required, ten-year trial. Permit revocation lasts five years.

The goal of the enterprise is to see if urban manners can re-adapt some of the practical mercies that our modern march to sterility flushed without good reason. Maybe keeping some hens in your backyard is one of them. Probably, this specific thing was never crying out to be banned.

Understand, this may fail.

Owning domestic animals for the purpose of harvest is not like owning a dog or cat or ferret. The moral contract is different -- though no less solemn -- but not everyone understands it. Those hens will age and at some point need butchering. Do you know how to do that? Maybe there'll be a guy at the farmers market to help. Still, expect a Chickens' Rights movement. Really.

Yet I support the idea of a backyard-hens trial -- because I learned a ton by growing up on a small farm, enlightened naturalism stuff I'd never have learned any other way. The benefit to kids (and therefore our common future) is the payoff. Your kids eat chicken eggs and chicken. If they know where those things come from, because they've lived it, we're all better off.

Don't be optimistic about a code change, though. Once you get past the NIMBYs and PETA, there's another vanguard of opposition. Chickens eating ticks and grubs from your yard is good, yes? Not according to the Insects' Rights movement.


The city of Schenectady is host to a multitude of wildlife including thousands of skunks , racoons and other such pests. They do nothing about this problem. Why cant my children keep a few pet chickens on our own property? Perhaps if they were free roaming birds they may be ignored as well..... ?

Hi there. Comments have been closed for this item. Still have something to say? Contact us.

The Scoop

For a decade All Over Albany was a place for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. It was kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who could help you find out what's up. AOA stopped publishing at the end of 2018.

Recently on All Over Albany

Thank you!

When we started AOA a decade ago we had no idea what was going to happen. And it turned out better than we could have... (more)

Let's stay in touch

This all feels like the last day of camp or something. And we're going to miss you all so much. But we'd like to stay... (more)

A few things I think about this place

Working on AOA over the past decade has been a life-changing experience for me and it's shaped the way I think about so many things.... (more)

Albany tightened its rules for shoveling snowy sidewalks last winter -- so how'd that work out?

If winter ever gets its act together and drops more snow on us, there will be sidewalks to shovel. And shortly after that, Albany will... (more)

Tea with Jack McEneny

Last week we were fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Jack McEneny -- former state Assemblyman, unofficial Albany historian, and genuinely nice guy.... (more)

Recent Comments

My three year old son absolutely loving riding the train around Huck Finn's (Hoffman's) Playland this summer.

Thank you!

...has 27 comments, most recently from Ashley

Let's stay in touch

...has 4 comments, most recently from mg

A look inside 2 Judson Street

...has 3 comments, most recently from Diane (Agans) Boyle

Everything changes: Alicia Lea

...has 2 comments, most recently from Chaz Boyark

A few things I think about this place

...has 13 comments, most recently from Katherine