Chicken Testimony!

Tonight is the night: Hearing number one with the Public Health and Human Services Subcommittee. We’ll need to come out strong to make this happen. In an effort to help folks craft testimony I’m posting my draft testimony here for others to use to craft their own.

Good evening, my name is __________________________ and I live at ____________________________ or I’m here representing _____________________________organization/business/agency.
I am here to speak in favor of passing the proposed chicken hen ordinance.
Cities all over the nation have passed similar ordinances, allowing people to raise chicken hens for the purpose of eggs or to have as pets. There are many reasons why this is a good time for Worcester to pass such an ordinance. In a time of economic uncertainty and with more and more food safety issues, increasing localized control of our food systems is important for the health and safety of residents, our environment, and our food supply. In Worcester, where food security and hunger are very real issues, allowing residents to access an inexpensive source of protein is important. In addition, with our growing population of immigrant and refugee residents, many of whom have an agricultural background or connection to farming, it is also important they are able to continue to practice pieces of their heritage and enrich our city with their knowledge.
Opponents or skeptics of this ordinance fear that chickens will escape, will attract pests and predators, will be noisy, and will create problems for the department of Animal Control here in the city. These are common fears, but they are not supported by data or findings.
In 2010, a “Green Urban Policy” class at DePaul University conducted a survey of 23 municipalities – including nearby cities such as New Haven, CT; Belmont, MA; South Portland, ME; and Buffalo, NY. – that had enacted poultry ordinances between 2005 and 2009.
According to the survey, 17 of the 23 cities reported no problems with chickens getting loose. Ten cities reported finding no violations of their chicken ordinances, while five more reported four or fewer violations. Results were similar regarding a question on the number of citizen complaints about backyard chickens. Thirteen communities reported two or fewer complaints, and two indicated receiving between five and 10 complaints. One city remarked that because their ordinance required chickens to be in the coop at all times, they were having no issues with chickens getting loose or predators attacking. Our ordinance also requires chickens to be in their coop at all times as well.
Many of the cities that boast of their successful chicken ordinance programs have implemented educational programming to help residents understand how to raise chickens in compliance with the ordinance. Here in Massachusetts, the Northeast Organic Farming Association already holds regular backyard chicken raising workshops and has already offered to hold a series in Worcester for residents come Spring of 2012.
I hope you realize in considering this ordinance that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks and that data has shown that with a properly written ordinance such as our proposed ordinance, issues of implementation will be minimal.
Thank you.

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