Town Board Puts Finishing Touches on ‘Chicken Law’

The new code will allow residents with at least a half-acre of land to keep up to six chickens. Credits: Sue Guzman

MAHOPAC, N.Y.— The language for a new ordinance that would allow homeowners with at least a half-acre of land to keep chickens is about complete and a public hearing has been scheduled for next month.

 “We are finalizing the language of how the law is going to read,” said Supervisor Ken Schmitt at the Feb. 8 Town Board meeting. “There have been different changes that have been made after discussions with the board and the community.”

The idea of raising chickens on residential property first came before the Town Board last summer when Mahopac resident Robert Lena created an online petition at urging town officials to amend the town code.

Sign Up for E-News

As it currently stands, the code limits raising chickens to working farms. Chapter 156-17, section A, of the code states: “Farms, truck gardens, nurseries and other agricultural activities shall be permitted as principal uses, provided that: (1) the site size shall be at least 5 acres… (2) No building or structure used for any of the above purposes shall be located closer than 100 feet to any property line. Pens or buildings housing animals or runs shall be located a minimum 150 feet from any property lines.”

Lena told the Town Board he would like those parameters changed so more homeowners would be eligible to keep chickens.

“I am sure there are a bunch of 5-acre farms out there, but most who are into raising poultry [don’t have that much land],” he said.

The Town Board held an informational session in August and got feedback from town residents and local chicken enthusiasts who overwhelmingly favored such a change. The board has been crafting the new ordinance since then but said that even with the Planning Board’s approval, there was still some work to do before the law could be finalized.

Last month, the Planning Board gave the proposed measure its approval but members of the Town Board said they still wanted to make some minor tweaks to the code’s language. Town attorney Greg Folchetti said that would be fine if the changes were minor; otherwise, it would have to be sent back to Planning Board.

“There are just a couple of different things we have added on here and there,” said Councilman Jonathan Schneider at last week’s meeting. “To the components of the coops that [the proposed code] requires, we added a little more definition. We also changed it a little bit in regard to enforcement and now have included the Putnam County SPCA so that they will be empowered by this code to enforce any violations.”

Schneider said the board did its due diligence putting the code together, doing extensive research and garnering a good deal of input.

“We have discussed this information with reps from Cornell Cooperative Extension and we have spoken with the ASPCA and got a couple of recommendations from them as far as enforcement goes,” he said. “It seems like we are pretty close to having a finalized proposed code.”

Some of the minor changes that the Town Board made to the proposed code since it was viewed by the Planning Board spell out more specific details about coop requirements. The law, as currently written, would require coops to contain the following components:

• A nesting place for each chicken to lay eggs at least 4 inches deep

• An elevated roost or perching area for the chickens to sleep

• Ventilation

• Insulation

• Accessibility to eggs and an ability to clean properly

“Whoever gets involved with [keeping chickens] has to understand that there is a lot of responsibility,” Schneider said. “We want to protect the animals but we want to protect the residents as well.”

However, Deputy Supervisor Frank Lombardi said he was still uncomfortable with the new code’s half-acre minimum requirement for keeping chickens,

“I think at least 85 percent of this town is at least half-acre [properties] and I have asked for at least an acre to prevent issues with neighbors so they don’t feel like they bought a house next to a farm,” he said. “But let’s see what the public says at the public hearing.”

But Folchetti noted that if the board made a change to the language as significant as altering the lot-size requirement, the proposed code would have to go back to the Planning Board for its approval, which would further delay any public hearing.

“We have all had plenty of time to look at it so we don’t want to be picking it apart at the 11th hour,” Councilwoman Suzi McDonough said.

Schmitt, too, said he was in favor of letting the language stand.

“We have a lot of things we are working on and this is something we could check off our list,” he said.

Schneider said he is confident the proposed law would pass as it’s currently worded.

“I feel we can get a majority vote on what we have right now,” he said.

The board scheduled a public hearing on the proposed ordinance for its March 15 work session.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


I Do Not Make Stuff Up!

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in my column, “Watergate analogies apply to Obama, not Trump,” that President Obama’s Justice Department planted a spy in the Trump campaign. I said I used the term “spy” because this was a counter-intelligence operation, not a criminal investigation, where the term informant would have been proper.

That statement has been brought ...

Here's What You Missed Last Week

Last week, the Daily News ran a headline, “When is our father coming home?” This dealt with a person here illegally, married to an American woman with a family, who was arrested at an Army base while delivering pizza. You are supposed to think that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), under Trump, is tearing families apart. As usual, it was a crock of cow pies. It was ...

Reagan on Trump

The party of “Honest Abe” has now become the party of Dishonest Don, and what follows are some disturbing displays of a Republican Party that has become devoid of conscience:

• More than 4,600 American citizens dead in Puerto Rico—a postscript to the government’s abysmal response to the widespread devastation of Hurricane Maria; 
• The underhanded ...

The Rich Get Richer, and We’re Paying For It

According to a Harvard University study published late last year, most Americans believe that the richest 20 percent of Americans own just half of the nation’s wealth. Wrong! The top 20 percent own 93 percent of the nation’s wealth, and the top 1 percent own 40 percent of that wealth. Additionally, the top 10 percent of earners in 2017 took home more than half the nation’s ...

What Kind of Sports Parent Are You?

Social media recently showered a lot of likes and love on a high school pitcher in Minnesota whose team was playing in a regional final that would send the winning team to the state championship game.

After the last batter of the game struck out, the pitcher did something unheard of. Rather than spontaneously join his teammates in an on-field celebration, as is customary, the pitcher ...

Competing—Against Yourself

This is the time of year when students are recognized at public ceremonies for notable achievements in their studies, their sports and in their extracurricular pursuits.

Where we live, there are awards in various sports that are named for our son, who also is memorialized by town ballfield Harrison Apar Field of Dreams and a charitable foundation of the same name.

Due to a rare dwarfism, ...

Packing Heat

“Are you leaving me?” asked my husband one night as he surveyed the contents of my closet on our bed.

“What? No!” I said. “Why would you think that?”

“Every single article of clothing you own is laid out on our bed,” he replied. “So I have to assume you are either leaving me or you have joined the armed services and if that’s the ...

I Come from the Land Down Under

I know this is a family column, so I’m going to put this in as delicate terms as possible.

This morning I woke up and I knew, as sure as the sun shines over Bora Bora, that something was very, very wrong in that place in my body where the Bora Bora sun doesn’t shine.

It’s that place I used to refer to my daughter as her hoo-hoo. But it certainly wasn’t a happy ...

Upcoming Events


Wed, June 27, 9:00 AM

Putnam County Department of Health, Brewster

PCDOH Free HIV Testing Day

Health & Wellness