Great Advice for Petitioning Your City to Allow Backyard Chickens!
We Gotta Fight...For the Right...For Chickens!
Have you been interested in raising your own backyard chickens? Have you wanted to get free organic eggs delivered to you on a daily basis? Let me share with you our family's journey through petitioning a city council in suburban Texas to allow backyard chickens. I will show you the exact steps we took to be successful in an effort to raise our own healthy organic eggs.
Starting a family is when many people start taking their health and what they eat much more seriously. I know for my husband and I, that was a major reason for doing a lot of research and making so much effort to getting educated about healthy food choices and creating a more sustainable lifestyle. While educating ourselves, we starting reading about raising backyard chickens. Its not as scary as you first think! Chickens are very low maintenance, quiet, and produce something that we eat everyday. We also loved the added benefit that they would help us teach our children that not all the food we consume has to come from the grocery store shelf!
Through our research we found that In contrast to factory farm eggs, eggs from backyard chickens have 25 percent more vitamin E, a third more vitamin A, and 75 percent more beta carotene. Not to mention more omega-3 fatty acids than factory farmed eggs. Grocery store eggs can sit on the shelves for days and even weeks. Air seeps into the porous eggshell and affects the nutrients, taste, and consistency of the eggs. Fresh eggs have firmer whites and super bright orange yolks.
All these reasons were strong enough for us to look at raising chickens in our suburban backyard. Now for the roadblock.....A little research and we found that our city's ordinance stated that you could have a chicken coop, but it had to be 150’ away from any neighboring property line. That’s the distance of a football field, 360 degrees around. In Allen, a suburb north of Dallas, that allows 0% of residents to actually have chickens.
After lots and lots of research I learned how best to petition your city to allow backyard chickens. I started a petition to "Change the city ordinance banning backyard chickens and turn Allen into a pro-chicken community" on Change.org. I then built a Facebook Page in which to promote my cause. I carefully laid out all the pro-chicken points while addressing the more common anti-chicken concerns in a thoughtful, clear, and concise essay. I set a budget of $100 and did some targeted display advertising to residents of Allen ages 30+ and boosted some of my posts.
I notified all the petition signers and Facebook followers to show up and support my speaking to the City Council meeting January 26th. I asked them all to email the City Council expressing their support for updating the ordinance. KEY NOTE: I included the email addresses for the Mayor and all the City Council Members (no one is going to make the effort to look it up themselves) and a draft email they could easily copy/paste. Anything to make it easier is most effective.
I brought little chicken buttons (just paper & tape) for supporters to wear at the meeting as a visual show of support. I contacted the media and received two responses from reporters who covered the story.
Now with the public support behind me and some decent media coverage I spoke at the City Council meeting January 26th, 2016. February 9th I heard back from the city that they were taking our petition seriously and were putting together a committee to review the issue and present a proposal sometime in March.
It wasn't until mid-April that I finally heard from the city that they'd presented the proposal to the City Council in a private meeting and they'd ask that the residents have a chance to review it and give feedback before it was put to a vote. During every lull and waiting period I'd post updates or link to relevant articles to keep my advocate community engaged and involved. If you visit the Change.org page or the Facebook page you can see the regular stream of updates and information shared.
So it was April 14th, 2016 and I, along with the owner of a local feed store that I'd reached out to, his work colleague a Purina food rep, and one other passionate Allen resident met with this subcommittee. We reviewed the proposed new ordinance and gave a few suggested changes.
It was another two months before we heard from the City Council again. They were doing a small workshop on June 28th to discuss the proposal. I couldn't make this one (which killed me) but I was out of town on business travel. Following the workshop the consensus was that it was likely the ordinance would pass in the next City Council meeting July 26th.
I encouraged all the petition signers and Facebook followers to email the Mayor and City Council with their support one last time (for probably the 10th time. I wanted to be persistent, but not obnoxious). Again, I included email addresses and an email template they could copy/paste and customize as they saw fit.
I reached out to the media again the day before the vote to let them know the big day was finally there. I gave an interview with the local Allen American newsletter again.
The time came - I nervously waited until the meeting got to the Chicken Ordinance vote (about 30 minutes in). Our City Manager did a fantastic job pitching the updated proposal. The City Council was a little more ambivalent about it than I expected - there was a 50/50 divide between them and I began to get nervous it wouldn't pass! The hardest part was that it was not a public discussion and I couldn't chime in when the nay-sayers had misinformed or illogical arguments.
At 8:30pm July 26th I was able to post the following update:
"I am happy to announce the new pro-chicken ordinance was approved and passed by the City Council tonight! It was a good 30 minutes of rigorous debate and a few concessions were made in order to get it approved.
They did decrease the # of chickens allowed to 4 female hens. No roosters of course. The chicken coop enclosure must be 20' from a neighbor's property line. Allen citizens must apply for a one-time permit. The permit will not be granted if the home resides in an HOA that restricts the home from keeping chickens or if there are any deed restrictions against chickens.
The ordinance passed which will allow residents in our community to bring a little more sustainability into their own lives which is a great lesson to us all. We don't have to buy everything from the grocery store shelf. Its fun to experiment and see how much food you can actually provide for your own family.