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Egged on by resident, Williamsville now allows chicken raising

Why did the chicken cross South Union Road from Amherst to Williamsville?

Because now it can.

The Williamsville Village Board recently agreed to let homeowners raise chickens in their yards. Village trustees, egged on by a resident who wanted the law, acted five years after the town opened its doors to chickens.

Williamsville isn't likely to see people flocking to Village Hall for the required permits. Only a handful of Amherst residents have sought and received permission for chickens through the town's Zoning Board of Appeals.

Opponents fear noise and odor, but advocates say chickens behave well, reliably provide protein-rich eggs and offer an education to any children living at home.

"This adds another dimension to living in the village," said Elizabeth Graczyk Dagostino, who pressed the Village Board to allow chickens and who noted Williamsville's history as a milling and farming community.

People who are, yes, plucky enough to put in the time and effort required to properly care for chickens at home will be amply rewarded, advocates say.

"I really adore the chickens. They're pretty responsive and friendly," said Kimberly Fedkiw, who keeps five at her North Ivyhurst Road home in the town.

Until last week, the only chicken you'd find in Williamsville was on the menu at the Eagle House, the Glen Park Tavern and other village restaurants or stores.

Elizabeth Dagostino and her son, Michael, 7, stand near one possible spot for a chicken coop in their yard. (Stephen T. Watson/Buffalo News)

Dagostino wanted to change that.

She said she first learned about people who raise chickens at home when she was living in Brooklyn and, later, Long Island. Dagostino studied the idea but ultimately didn't raise any there.

The mother of two and active community volunteer, who lives on Monroe Drive, is more serious about getting into chickens today.

"I like that it's different. We're animal lovers to begin with," said Dagostino, who also eats eggs, usually scrambled, every day and would like to get them fresh from the source.

She said her oldest son, Michael, 7, has spurred her on. His teacher at Forest Elementary School, Stacie Albuez, brought six eggs into school this past year so that the students could see them hatch. Albuez bought the eggs from a local farmer.

Two survived and the class named them Bob and Fluffy, Michael said. (The class had to give up the chicks, Michael said, after "they started pooping a lot.") It was Michael who urged his mother to write a letter to village officials.

She agreed because, she said, she tries to teach Michael and his brother, Johnny, 5, the value of changing your community for the better.

Dagostino made her pitch to Village Board members in February. She presented her research and explained how she would care for the chickens. Dagostino emphasized that she would keep feed in her house, to avoid attracting rodents, and said she would keep waste in a special container.

Williamsville to consider allowing backyard chickens

She told the board, and repeated to a visitor to her home last week, that the important thing is making sure her neighbors are OK with her plans. "If my neighbors really oppose it, I won't be getting any chickens," Dagostino said.

Dagostino's argument carried the day with the Village Board, which on June 25 approved a law allowing residents to raise up to six chickens on their property.

People who want to install a chicken coop must adhere to 14 conditions, starting with a special-use permit from the village's Zoning Board of Appeals.

"I didn't think it would open up a Pandora's box of everybody in the village wanting chickens," Dagostino said.

The village's law is modeled on Amherst’s 2013 law allowing chickens. Both say coops must be at least 15 feet from any property line and feed must be stored in secure, rodent-proof containers. Both only allow chickens because they make less noise than their male counterparts.

"Neighbors don't like roosters," said John Radens, chairman of the town's Zoning Board of Appeals, which issues special-use permits for raising chickens.

In Amherst, over the past 18 months, around five people have come to the Zoning Board for permission to keep chickens, Radens said.

"As far as I know, people are raising them for eggs, not for meat," he said.

Fedkiw two years ago bought six chicks from a woman in Batavia who raises them. She returned to the Zoning Board in 2017 for another, two-year chickens permit.

Five chickens, all weighing about 8 pounds, remain: Miss Ruby, Sage, Hazel, Ginger and Beatrix.

Fedkiw spent $1,200 on her coop, including the electrical connection that feeds a heat lamp to keep them warm in the winter. She said her hens lay two to five eggs, between the five of them, per day. Fedkiw eats them herself or gives them to friends and family.

She said the chickens make a mild noise when she walks out to her backyard coop, or when they are laying their eggs, but it's nothing too disruptive.

She said collecting the eggs, feeding the chickens – "They love apples" – and cleaning up after them requires a daily commitment. But Fedkiw lauded their curious personality.

"The chickens come running to you, and they let you pet them," she said.

There are no chickens, curious or otherwise, on Monroe Drive yet.

Dagostino said she's eyeing a few potential spots where she could keep some chickens, but hasn't made a final decision yet. She said she wouldn't bring home any chicks, or eggs, until next year at the earliest.

We can only hope she's not – last one, we promise – chickening out.

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