Letter to the editor: New chicken ordinance is targeted, discriminatory


Letter read at Tuesday's Sumter City Council meeting:

Reading this new code was shocking. It appears to be written by someone who has never owned chickens, has not researched owning chickens, and who has a very distinct desire to rid chickens from very specific properties. This code is extremely targeted and discriminatory. Owning chickens is one of the best ways to provide for a family in an urban setting. It is accepted worldwide. I have lived in many countries, including Belgium and Japan, where my neighbors all owned chickens. Next to having a vegetable garden each year, it is one of the only ways that a large family in an urban setting can provide for their own food. I truly believe that the purpose of this code is two-fold and ONLY two-fold: to seek control over those who are willing and capable of working on their land, however small, to provide for their own family, and as a power struggle against smaller landowners, those with less clout here today.

History and the natural order of God's creation completely devastate your "code" of any integrity. God clearly gave us dominion over the animals as a way to provide for ourselves. When you seek to take this right from people, when you pick and choose how large someone's property must be, you interfere with this right and you disrupt the natural, intended order of our world. I don't know how many of you have ever been a part of harvesting one's own chicken or turkey for Thanksgiving dinner, but there is no part of this process that has anything to do with city limit signs or property size. How have we forgotten that this is as natural as picking cucumbers? Why are we sitting back silently as the knowledge of how to grow and harvest food is lost and the right to do so taken away from us? In light of this, I am left with the assumption that each of you who would approve this are so far removed from your food and how it is sourced that you seek to destroy the rights of those willing, able and in need of doing it themselves.

The removal of all males from the flock is unconscionable. It shows a lack of research and a focus on a single part of roosters, the crow. The noise produced by a crowing rooster is a completely natural animal sound, equivalent to, if not eclipsed by, a loud owl, group of blue jays, family of hawks, and/or certainly a neighbor's beloved pet beagle. The benefits of having a rooster in a small flock are immense and speak to the way nature is designed to care for itself. Roosters protect hens from predators, including snakes or other animals that may breach the most protective coops. Roosters make it possible to keep a small flock self-sufficient by allowing the hens to occasionally rear chicks. Otherwise, rearing chicks can become very cost prohibitive, very quickly. Again, this code is leaning in favor of those who do not concern themselves with costs. Flocks with roosters are much healthier flocks, more protected, self-sufficient, and have better egg production. With this in mind, one thing is very clear, this code is in no way intended to improve the health of a flock of chickens.

A floor on a chicken coop and run is extremely cost prohibitive, a huge biosecurity and cleanliness concern, and completely unnecessary. Again, this shows a lack of understanding in regards to the health of chickens, owning a flock, and/or cost. Chickens on the ground dust bathe to naturally rid themselves of pests and to clean and cool themselves, they control ground pests through foraging, and supplement their diet with natural and beneficial plants and insects. They also provide natural aeration for the soil in your garden.

There are many available options for self-serve feeders for chickens that adequately protect feed overnight and eliminate the need to "feed" the chickens each morning. Along with automatic coop doors, this allows working families to provide morning care to their flock. The complete lack of any mention of this, and other alternate provisions, reinforces the complete lack of research or understanding on the part of the person or persons who drafted this code.

The noise of a flock of chickens with a single rooster is absolutely no more interfering than the noise of a neighbor who chooses to own a loud dog, more than two dogs, fights with their spouse loudly, has children that play instruments, or runs in large groups of friends down the road every day while chatting loudly enough to hear each other. What will we prohibit next so that there is absolutely no noise to our neighbors? What about our wildlife? The owl outside of my window, the group of blue jays attacking my birdfeeder, are these groups of animals next on your list? We all live with the noises that naturally exist around us. This noise is understandably and acceptably increased inside city limits by things such as: ambulances, firetrucks, police sirens, traffic sounds, and more. Flocks of chickens go to sleep at dusk and do not wake up until dawn. This is a negligent concern. I would like to add that it is also a selfish one, with very limited self-reflection from those who would suggest removing a family's source of food is more reasonable than asking them to house the rooster until daybreak, or simply using a fan, noise machine, etc. to allow them the luxury of sleeping in past dawn.

What is the actual purpose of this code? The purpose cannot be a concern for the noise because flocks of chickens do not supersede city noise. Also, we already have a code that covers this concern. The concern cannot be pests because we already have a code that covers this concern. Flocks of chickens allowed to forage help keep pests under control. The concern cannot be cleanliness, because we already have a code that covers this concern. Gardeners who use manure or compost in their garden, those with compost piles, and those with dogs and cats create more concern for odor and flies than a flock of chickens does. The concern cannot be the flock and/or family itself because this code harms the biosecurity and natural order of the flock. The concern cannot be citizens trying to provide for their families because this code would devastate many of them. I put to you that the only potential purpose of this code is control. It unfairly and unequally affects smaller landowner. The 2-acre exemption is the most racial, wealth, and class-divisive element I've ever seen in Sumter city code. It would appear that someone here decided that the majority of their friends would not be impacted if you threw in this clause. Otherwise, size of property has little to no impact on the actual stated intention of this discriminatory code.

What about enforcing the code we have now? At the very least, this subject needs much more attention, research, time, and care than it has received here. Alternatives to this costly and discriminatory legislation should be carefully considered. There should also be a plan to consult, consider, and grandfather-in current chicken owners to any new code. Honest dialogue about the purpose of this code needs to be had as it is clearly not for the health and safety of residents and/or flocks.

Thank you for your attention and consideration.