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Williamsville to consider allowing backyard chickens

Chickens may soon be coming home to roost in Williamsville.

The Village Board on Monday agreed to consider amending the village's prohibition on homeowners raising chickens.

The decision was prompted by a request from a village resident, Elizabeth Dagostino, who said she wants to raise a flock of three hens with her sons, ages 7 and 4.

"They are excited about the prospect of raising backyard chickens," she told trustees Monday during the board's work session.

Dagostino presented her research to the Village Board, acknowledging that some people fear noise, odor and disease from keeping backyard chickens.

She outlined her plan, including keeping feed in her house to prevent attracting rodents. Waste would be kept in a sealed container in a metal can in a locked shed and disposed of at a special facility, not in municipal totes.

"There is quite a bit of work that goes into keeping even a small flock of chickens in your yard," she said.

Also, hens are not noisy, she said – "no more than you would hear from your average cat."

Village Attorney Charles D. Grieco said the prohibition on raising chickens is in the village's general code and could be amended by local law. The board could modify that chapter in the code, or eliminate it entirely and regulate it in the zoning code like most municipalities that allow chickens, such as Amherst. A local law to amend the prohibition would be subject to a public hearing first, Grieco said.

The Town of Amherst has allowed permits for chickens since early 2013.

At that time, the town created a temporary “special-use permit” that allows homeowners to apply to the Zoning Board of Appeals for the right to raise up to six hens on their properties.

The permit comes up for renewal every two years to give the town the ability to end permits for chicken owners who prove negligent or irresponsible.

Applicants for the permit must live in detached, single-family homes and raise chickens for noncommercial purposes. No on-site chicken breeding or roosters are allowed. Hens do not need roosters to lay unfertilized eggs. And the Zoning Board must “solicit input from property owners within 100 feet of the applicant's property” to see if immediate neighbors have any complaints.

Village officials said they would study other municipalities' laws, such as Amherst and Buffalo. Mayor Daniel DeLano said he didn't expect many village residents would be interested in applying for such a permit but was open to allowing it, with conditions.

"I think that if we're going to do this then we need a pretty strict set of habitat rules," he said.

Dagostino said the neighbors she spoke to were receptive to her proposal, and ultimately they would have the final say.

"If any of them say to me, 'We're not interested in this. We don't want chickens living next door to us' then that's it," she said. "My neighbors are more important to me than chickens. But they all seem to be so far in agreement."

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