Rules, Rules: To Raise Chickens in Your Yard, Get the Proper Forms at Town Hall

Writing stories for Dan’s Papers for more than half a century as I have gives a person a very unusual perspective about then and now. Sometimes stories about then and now just roll effortlessly off the word processer. Like this one.

Here is how you went about having chickens and roosters on your property years ago on eastern Long Island. You went out to a nearby farm and bought some, took them home and you were in business. The result was fresh eggs and good roasters.

Now we all want to save the farms. Let’s see how well we pass this test. Here is how you go about getting chickens, eggs and roosters for your property today in Sag Harbor.

You go to Village Hall on Main Street and get a form to apply for chickens from the Planning Board. It’s one page long. You fill it out. The rules are you can keep up to six chickens per 20,000 square feet of lot area. There shall be no more than 18 chickens in total on the property at any one time, regardless of size. The sale of eggs is prohibited. (Two reasons. You do not have a business permit and you have not gotten an approval certificate from the Suffolk County Board of Health.)

It is required you build a chicken coop for your chickens. The chicken coop must be no larger 100 square feet and must be no nearer the side lot of your property than is allowable for the zoning of the district your property is in. While at Village Hall, you may wish to go to the building department and determine what the side and back yard minimum distance requirements for your property might be.

You submit the application, pay the application fee and you wait.

You may not have a rooster (or roosters) on your property at all. It is strictly prohibited, but then, it turns out you can get a special dispensation from the Pope to have a rooster if you fill out and file a special dispensation permit application (which carries a $5,000 fee). The Village will want to know the number of roosters you wish to have, where they will be housed and so forth, and you will wait to get a date from the busy town planning board to hear your request. In the meantime, the handing in of your request triggers several other actions. The village will not only finally settle on a date and time for the hearing with the planning board, but also give you notices to send out to all your nearest neighbors and require you to place legal advertisements in local newspapers inviting your neighbors or other interested parties to come at the appropriate time and express their opinions about whether they like the sound of roosters greeting the day at dawn. (Personally, I like that sound.)

On making your application for all this, you will also be told there is a portion of the Village code you should read which describes what the punishments are for having an excessive number of live chickens, selling their eggs or harboring an illegal rooster (or, as I prefer to call them, roosters without proper paperwork). You will be relieved to know there is no death penalty in Sag Harbor.

After the hearing, you must wait thirty days or more. The Board ponders and ruminates about the pros and cons of your application, the ins and outs of what’s been said at the hearing, the opinions of the Village attorney and others, after which, finally, they will send a letter to you by U. S. Mail announcing whether your chicken and egg application or chicken, egg and rooster application has been approved.

If it is, you can go to one of our remaining farms that has live poultry and buy these farmyard animals to keep on your property at home to better save the environment from the gas you might have to otherwise use going out in your car to the supermarket to get plucked and cleaned chickens wrapped in plastic or eggs shipped in from, maybe, Equador.


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