Two weeks ago, I wrote a story about the new law in Sag Harbor involving raising chickens in private homes. Before this law, chickens were not allowed in the village, before that there was no law. All you had to do was to just go out to a farm, buy some chickens, a rooster, build a coop and listen for dawn when the rooster gets up. You just did it. And you had fresh eggs.
The new law says you have to fill out an application, pay a fee, get it approved and before the chickens arrive, build a coop to certain building department specifications, obey the side lot laws so the coop is not too close to a neighbor, see that it’s built in the backyard not in the front, not have a rooster, and not have more than six chickens for any 20,000 square feet of property area (a little less than ½ an acre.) Also, you can’t sell your eggs commercially.
A woman who wanted to have chickens at her house, Mare Dianora of Grand Street, worked with the authorities in town to create the new law. Once it was passed, she almost immediately filled out the form to apply to have three chickens. She chose to ask for three. Her house lot is about 13,000 square feet.
This village board deliberated amongst themselves and then the village rejected her application. All of it was in order, except that she didn’t meet the 20,000 square foot rule. Dianora said her understanding of the rule was that if it was six chickens allowed at 20,000 square feet, she could have 3 on 10,000 square feet (with some square footage to spare). The village attorney told her no, that was not their interpretation. It was a MINIMUM of 20,000 square feet. Below that, it was no chickens.
Dianora pointed out that more than half the homes in Sag Harbor are on less than 20,000 square feet and so they would be discriminated against about having any chickens if they interpreted it that way. The Village held fast. But, they will possibly talk about this new law and re-consider it at their next regularly held meeting on Tuesday, June 12, at 6 pm. All of this was in The Sag Harbor Express.
Under the circumstances, since this story was already in circulation, I felt it best, to add another perspective. As Editor in Chief, I decided to go to a farm in Flanders and interview a chicken named Beatrice who I was told was one of the chickens coming down to Sag Harbor.
DAN’S PAPERS: How did you get to be one of the chickens that would be going to Sag Harbor?
BEATRICE: The farmer here asked us to draw straws. The one with the shortest straw would win. And, the winner could select companions.
DAN’S PAPERS: And you won this fair and square?
BEATRICE: I really can’t get into it. Let’s just say I went into the barn with my eyes open. That’s all I can say.
DAN’S PAPERS: So, after you won how did you decide on which other chickens would come with you?
BEATRICE: There are more than 200 chickens here slaving away laying two eggs a day. It’s an assembly line. We talked about it. This would be a great thing for some of us to be going into a private home. I chose Fred of course, and then he and I chose the other hen, Denise. Denise is, far and away, the most beautiful hen here other than me. Fred chose her actually. He’s The Man.
DAN’S PAPERS: You know that Fred can’t go. He’s a rooster, right?
BEATRICE: We intend to have him dress up as a chicken. This is off the record. Right? I can trust you?
DAN’S PAPERS: Of course. But, what if he crows at dawn?
BEATRICE: Fred is too cool to crow at dawn. You see him over there?
DAN’S PAPERS: Where?
BEATRICE: The one with the dark glasses. He leaves the crowing at dawn to others.
DAN’S PAPERS: Have you talked to Ms. Whats-her-name about this? She knows who’s coming?
BEATRICE: Look, the thing is, I’m not going without Fred. Fred is a wild man. I depend upon him for everything. If he doesn’t go, or if he’s found out and get’s kicked out, none of us will go. I think Ms. Whatever-her-name-is just wants the best. She is going to get the best. That’s us three. Will you look at this place?
DAN’S PAPERS: I see hundreds and hundreds of chickens cheek by jowl running around in this dirt floor pen making all sorts of clucking noises. I see a rooster with dark glasses.
BEATRICE: So do you see any chicken better looking than me?
DAN’S PAPERS: Can’t say as I do.
BEATRICE: This place is a hot house. There’s overcrowding. We get only chicken feed two times a day. That’s it. We’re supposed to lay an egg twice a day. And they use special lights to try and fool us into thinking the sun is shining when its not. We lay better in daylight. It’s crazy. And, if we don’t lay two eggs every day, bad things happen. I don’t want to talk about that further.
DAN’S PAPERS: Have you complained about this?
BEATRICE: I have complained to the Association for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. We are animals.
DAN’S PAPERS: Chickens are animals?
BEATRICE: Chickens are animals. Ever see a chicken fly? We aren’t birds. We’re animals and we’re being treated like animals here. I am delighted to be going down to Sag Harbor.
DAN’S PAPERS: Have you heard Ms. Dianora’s application was rejected?
BEATRICE: Who told you that? It’s six chickens for 20,000 square feet, three chickens for 12,000. We’re three chickens. Ms. Dianora helped write the ordinance, didn’t she? You are mistaken.
DAN’S PAPERS: No, I am not mistaken.
BEATRICE: I’m telling you, you’ve got it wrong. It’s three chickens for 12,000 square feet.
DAN’S PAPERS: What have they told you about Ms. Dianora’s place?
BEATRICE: It’s going to be terrific. It’s the best house in Sag Harbor. We’re going to be part of their family. Special Pets. It has a vast living room. A fireplace. We’ll live in a den right off of it. We’ll do sing-a-longs for them. We’ll strut around to John Phillip Sousa music for them. They’ll applaud and carry us around on their shoulders. No more worries, no more troubles. And, a great view of the water. Also, it’s on Grand Street, which, just from its name, is very grand. And we get to lay an egg whenever we feel like it, not when THEY feel like it. It’s going to be a happy, happy day when we get out of here and go to Sag Harbor-land. We’re going next week! It’s all been worked out. Look, I have to go. I’ve been doing this interview long enough. Fred just broke up a fight across the way. Look at these angry crowds and now he’s heading over here. Okay? I don’t want to be rude really, but…
DAN’S PAPERS: I see his dark glasses are askew. Well thanks very much, Beatrice.
BEATRICE: (Running off). Buk Buk Buk.