Grit Blogs > Gardening with Vickie

Backyard Chickens: How to Make Them Legal

A photo of Vickie MorganI want chickens, any kind will do-it doesn’t matter if they lay white or brown eggs, if they have feathers on their legs or a big plume on top of their head. I’ve wanted chickens for a very long time, but we live within the city limits, and, with no major move expected to the country soon, I really thought it was only a dream. Things are changing though, cities are becoming more open to allowing residents to own backyard chickens, and my dream might still be possible.

One day last week when I went to City Hall to pay a bill, I asked about keeping chickens and was told you need to own at least 10 acres. Well, that did us in, we own just under an acre. Then, the clerk said she had many inquiries, and she wished someone would go to the city council meeting and ask about keeping backyard chickens. I decided right then, if I wanted chickens, I was going to have to do this.

Vickie hopes this chicken will be hers in the future

Why would I want chickens, you ask? Well, the fresh eggs just can’t be beat, chickens are relatively easy to raise, and then last but not least they give you the best compost for your garden, and it’s free!

I found out that East Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Ypsilanti, Michigan, all allow backyard chickens. Through one of my readers of my blog, I was given the link to the chicken ordinance from the city of Ypsilanti. The ordinance reads that you can have four hens and no rooster. Four hens are about what we had figured we wanted anyway. It also states that you can not slaughter any hens. So, they will be my forever chickens, if they want this in our ordinance. I made sure I had 8 copies one for each council member and one for the mayor.

Monday night came, and so did a bunch of nerves. When I speak in public, my face will turn red, the red starts to crawl down my neck, and then my heart pounds. So, as I sat there at the City Council meeting that night, all three things began to happen, but I ignored it all. I mean, if I let that stop me nothing would ever get accomplished.

It was such an interesting meeting – a lot of people where in the audience, many where there about paving a street, water bills, etc., some very important stuff. So, I decided when it came time for audience participation I would let most of them go first. Finally, it seemed like most of them had spoken, and I raised my hand.

What did I say? Well, I started out telling them something like I was interested in having backyard chickens, it was at that point I believe I heard a couple of snickers, but I tried to act like I didn’t hear them and continued on. I told them that according the ordinances now, I would not be allowed to keep them. I stated my reasons why I wanted chickens, and let them know about the other cities that now allow them. I let them know there usually is a limit of four or not more than six hens, and most cities will not allow roosters. I also gave them a copy of the Ypsilanti chicken ordinance, which I think went over well. I think I spoke so fast I only used up a minute of my 3 minutes of allowed time!

It seemed like all of them agreed that this was not a bad idea, and they agreed that the no rooster clause in the ordinance would be a great thing in the city. They said they would look into it, and the ordinance should be ready before spring. Just in time to order chicks. Hurray!

1/12/2010 3:49:13 PM

Hank, Thanks for the website -- I think I have few city council meetings to attend and will need that. And I definetly will be contacting you for the chicken guide when it comes time! vickie

hank will_2
1/12/2010 2:14:55 PM

Vickie -- Chickens are positively awesome. They are easy and fun to raise. They will feed and entertain you. Chickens are more fun to watch in the evening than any television program I've ever been forced to sit through. Check this website for step by step info on how to navigate the murky ordinance waters. Also, when it comes out, I'll send you a copy of GRIT's guide to backyard chickens if you send me an email to remind me. Thanks, Hank

1/3/2010 9:33:21 AM

Carol, If you could find another person or even a group of people to go with you and speak before the council it would be easier. The lady that encouraged me at city hall when I went to pay the bill got up and spoke about it right after I did. If I have to go back I believe I will start asking around to see if anyone else wants chickens in my neighborhood. Wish we lived near you -we could go together! vickie

carol g_1
1/2/2010 7:20:59 PM

Vickie, I am new to your blog and am curious about what part of Michigan you are in. I am in Taylor near Detroit Metro airport. I would like some hens as well but I don't think that I could go in front of the city counsel on my own. I think you are quite brave for doing that. My parents are in Ypsilanti but so far I can not talk them into fostering hens for me. :)

12/24/2009 6:06:57 AM

Shannon, You must have just commented! We are now very busy babysitting little grandson. He is such a joy and a lot of fun. No time for the blog but I will be here at Grit though. You have a Merry Christmas also. vickie

s.m.r. saia
12/24/2009 5:59:28 AM

I tried to access your other blog this morning but you seem to have disappeared. Everything OK? Merry Christmas!

12/19/2009 12:00:29 PM

Valeree, Oh, they were all so nice when I sit back down and wanted to buy eggs from me. I just felt so funny myself after listening to the many important issues -but I guess having chickens can be very important! Thanks so much for the link -I'll go to right now. vickie

12/19/2009 11:56:40 AM

Shannon, Some things I just have to get up the nerve four and now I'm saving up egg cartons already hoping that it will come true! vickie

12/19/2009 7:34:30 AM

It's okay if they snicker -- chickens are funny. :) It doesn't mean they aren't listening, so keep your own sense of humor about it, too. There's a document you might find useful in your chicken-fight at -- it's what we used to get chickens legalized in our town.

s.m.r. saia
12/19/2009 6:18:05 AM

That is absolutely excellent Vickie! You are very brave! Good job!