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Woman fights to keep pet hens in residential zone

September 30, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Patricia Michalak's chickens serve important roles in her life -- they're her pets and they provide her with the healthy food she prefers.

"I believe it's important for me to have an active role in where my food comes from," Michalak told the Washington Township Supervisors on Wednesday.

Michalak, of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., spoke during the supervisors' meeting about why she feels chickens should be allowed in R1 (low-density residential) zones.

She received a letter from the township dated Sept. 11. In it, Code Enforcement Officer Matt Watson stated the chickens must be removed from her property within 30 days because having them violates zoning laws.

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The supervisors on Wednesday referred her to the zoning hearing board, but Michalak said she hopes other would-be chicken owners support her larger effort to get the zoning regulations changed.

"It's not really an agricultural operation. These are my pet hens," said Michalak, who has fewer than 10 heirloom-variety hens and no rooster.

Michalak, who writes about sustainable agriculture, only cooks with the eggs her hens produce. She described the eggs as being less runny and having a better yolk than supermarket varieties.

Michalak has kept chickens four out of the five years she's lived in the township. However, she said she's raised them in the past.

A neighbor complained about the hens to the township.

Supervisor Stephen Kulla questioned whether allowing chickens in residential zoning would create a slippery slope, prompting a need for geese and turkeys to be allowed.

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