Chicken Revolution in Brunswick

In early April, my husband Michael and I received a notice that we were in violation of a City of Brunswick ordinance prohibiting chickens.

We were given ten days to remove our two hens and all evidence of their existence from our property!

FerdyThis came as a shock at first because we had kept the hens for nearly two years without disturbing anyone, especially our immediate neighbors, who were aware we had them. Sadly, owning chickens in Brunswick is not allowed, and someone decided to report the fact that we had two hens in our backyard.

After a lengthy and emotional conversation, we decided that we would comply with the notice and remove our birds, but we would work towards changing the city ordinance. Looking back, whoever called anonymously to complain would now get a thank you from both of us. If they hadn’t, we wouldn’t have started down this path.

We first reached out for advice from the Maryland Farmers Exchange – a large community of more than 6000 users. The outpouring of support was overwhelming. Many people told us to “fight the good fight” to keep our chickens.

We then formed the Brunswick Chicken Revolution, which has garnered more than 350 “Likes” in less than a month.

chickenrevolutionFB500w

We have since been featured in two articles in the Frederick News Post (Brunswick chicken owner revolts against ordinance and Five questions with Brunswick chicken owner Amy Tuthill), another in the Brunswick Citizen, and we were interviewed as part of a television segment on WHAG.

WHAGtuthillinterview500w

The last month has been an absolute whirlwind. We’ve discovered a staggering amount of backyard chicken advocates across the country. And we’ve found that many local residents support the idea of having backyard chickens or simply don’t care if anyone else has them. Now we are confident that we can change the ordinance in order to promote self-sufficient living and food security.

Backyard chickens have become increasingly more common as people have joined sustainable living movements all across the country, and our very own state of Maryland. Many people have embraced urban or backyard gardening, and chickens seem to be a natural extension of these gardens. Cities like Chicago, New York City, and Baltimore allow a small number of chickens to be kept within city limits, giving residents access to eggs daily.

The benefits of backyard chickens are practically innumerable.

They are champion recyclers, turning kitchen scraps, scratch feed, and bugs into fresh eggs and potent garden fertilizer. They are a food source for their keepers, and they rid a variety of pests, such as insects, weeds, ticks, and even mice. They are relatively easy to care for, especially when compared to other “livestock,” and they make great pets.

smallcoop280wMost chickens, hens especially, are docile and friendly and can be handled with no problems. Backyard chickens provide a tremendous opportunity to teach children about where their food comes from. This gives future generations an emotional connection to their food and prompts people to care about what they put in their bodies.

Our chickens were also important to us because Brunswick has not had a grocery store since December of 2013 and will not have another one until at least 2016. The fresh eggs that we got from our hens were very convenient for us – as we would have to drive 15 miles in any direction to buy them from a grocery store.

We’ve learned that most people who are opposed to backyard chickens — at least at first — have a number of misconceptions about them. For instance, some have the impression that chickens are dirty, diseased, or smelly. However, this is not the case. Small flocks of hens are easy to care for, and their living quarters can very easily be kept clean. They produce very small amounts of waste that is compostable, unlike cat or dog waste.

For some, the image of large scale industrial chicken operations — where large numbers of chickens are kept in unsanitary and poorly ventilated conditions — is the sort of image that is conjured up when they hear the words, “backyard chickens.”

These conditions can lead to noise, odor and disease; however, that is not what anyone is advocating for here. We are supporting the right of responsible residents to maintain very small flocks of chickens within the Brunswick city limits. This is something that has far less of an impact than many other types of pets, while offering real benefits.

chickencoop500w

The utility of backyard chickens does not end at egg laying. As chickens age, their capacity for egg-laying dwindles. However, they are still excellent at devouring unusable organic waste and turning it into compost. As one uninformed individual exclaimed, “What do you do with your chickens once they stop laying? Kill them in your back yard?

“Disgusting!” Well, we would not condone killing any pet, let alone our elder hens, just because we stopped getting eggs from them. This is the mental disconnect we have had to address – that chickens are categorically “livestock” and must not be kept within a city. But as time has gone on, more and more cities around the country are adapting to the idea that chickens are not just livestock.

Beyond their numerous benefits and changing the way we view chickens, owning them is also something that government should not be going out of their way to prohibit. We are not opposed to reasonable regulations, and understand restrictions on the number of hens a homeowner may have (just like every other city that permits them), we don’t think our municipal laws should ban backyard chickens, which is legal throughout the county.

So the question that remains is “Why not?” Why not allow chickens in Brunswick?

With our campaign still gaining support, we have scheduled a public forum, on May 18th (see the flyer below), to present a 20-page informational packet and PowerPoint that we’ve already shared with the entire city council (which is split on the matter) and the mayor (who emphatically supports us). Although half the council has expressed doubts and reservations, we think addressing the facts and working to dispell the myths is the surest way to bringing our chickens back home.

boyandchickens500w


Chicken Revolution Brunswick, MD on Facebook

Chicken Revolution Public Forum event page on Facebook

Frederick News Post
Brunswick chicken owner revolts against ordinance
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
By Patti Borda Mullins

Frederick News Post
Five questions with Brunswick chicken owner Amy Tuthill
Monday, April 27, 2015
By Patti Borda Mullins

WHAG (Your4State.com): VIDEO
Brunswick Couple Works to Change City Ordinance Against Backyard Chickens
April 24, 2015
by Mallory Sofastaii

Petitioning City of Brunswick, MD
Draft New Chicken Ordinance

ChickenForumFlyerPic700w