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Posted on Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 11:01 a.m.

Ypsilanti Township to begin developing backyard chicken ordinance

By Tom Perkins

Ypsilanti Township is moving forward with developing an ordinance that will allow residents to keep chickens in their backyards.

The decision came after some 40 residents showed up in support of the idea at the Board of Trustees meeting on Monday.

No action was taken, but Supervisor Brenda Stumbo told the audience that the township’s legal and planning departments would take up the issue.

A change to the zoning ordinance would have to go through the planning commission and subsequently be approved by the Board of Trustees. But some proponents say backyard chickens are allowed under the state’s Right To Farm Act and the current ordinance that doesn’t allow them isn’t enforceable. That would mean a new ordinance wouldn’t be necessary.


Jaclyn Baublit speaks during public comment at the Township Board of Trustees meeting.

Tom Perkins | For

Stumbo said Township Attorney Doug Winters would investigate that argument. Even if it is found to be true, repealing the current zoning ordinance would have to be done through the planning commission and receive board approval.

The current ordinance doesn’t allow chickens on residential properties under five acres.

The push for an ordinance accommodating backyard chickens started after Ypsilanti Township resident Jaclyn Baublit was ticketed for having backyard chickens.

According to Mike Radzik, Director of the Township’s Office of Community Standards, the township received a complaint on January 9 from one of Baublit’s neighbors who said the chickens were noisy and caused an odor.

Baublit lives on a small parcel on Lexington Parkway off Clark Road in a neighborhood in the northern part of the township.

An ordinance officer inspected the property and found the chickens, Radzik said. He posted a notice of violation explaining the ordinance violations and ordering the chickens removed within seven days.

The officer returned on January 19, Radzik said, and it appeared the chickens were gone. But the same neighbor, who is fixing up a once-abandoned home next door but doesn’t live there, again complained about the chickens on January 31.

The ordinance officer returned but again didn’t find any chickens, so officials told the neighbor to get evidence to prove that the chickens were there. Radzik said a Washtenaw County sheriff's deputy who was aware of the situation saw the chickens on February 8 and alerted township officials.

That led the township to issue a $100 ticket for the ordinance violation.

Because it’s a civil infraction, the case went in front of 14B District Court Judge Charles Pope, who found Baublit’s boyfriend — the property owner — responsible on March 20.

Baublit said the chickens are now staying with friends in Saline while advocates work to get a new ordinance on the books.

Backyard chicken supporters are proposing a new ordinance that allows residents to keep up to six hens — but not roosters, because they make more noise — on a property with a single-family home.

The proposed language says the hens should be provided with and kept in covered or fenced enclosures at all times. The hens would have to be kept in the backyard, and feed and other items that could attract rodents or bugs must be properly stored.

Proponents also sought to clear up common misconceptions about chickens. Angela Barbash, who is part of the New West Willow Neighborhood Association, provided a “fact sheet” about chickens. She contended:

  • Hens make only make a soft clucking noise and are quieter than most dogs.
  • Rodents are only attracted to chickens feed is left open, as is the case with any unprotected food source.
  • There is no evidence to support that chickens decrease property values, and alternately could actually attract new homeowners who are friendly to local food and sustainability movement.
  • Chickens do not carry or spread diseases and eat ticks and insects.

Baublit stressed that she prefers having fresh eggs from her own chickens, which is important to the increasing number of people who own hens.

“This ordinance is behind the times and something needs to be done about it,” she said.

Stumbo asked how many people in the audience were in support of an ordinance. Around 40 people raised their hands, and no one raised their hand when she asked if anyone was opposed.

She said she supports developing an ordinance but also wants to receive input from the neighborhood associations. She said she discussed the idea of a similar ordinance with some neighborhood groups last year and there was little support, mostly because of fears of the odor.

Baublit said she was pleased with the board’s receptiveness and said she thought the meeting was promising.

“I think we’re headed in the right direction,” she said, adding that she and others will meet with neighborhood groups to provide information and be more involved.

“I’m glad so many people showed up in support,'' she said. "There needs to be a few people willing to take responsibility, and it’s hard work, but it will be worth it.”



Wed, May 29, 2013 : 5:19 a.m.

Are there any updates regarding the Twp allowing chickens?


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 1:31 p.m.

There is a reason why people live in subdivisions. You want to raise chickens or other FARM animials? Then live on a farm! Shame on Ypsilanti Township if they allow this.


Fri, May 4, 2012 : 6:18 p.m.

So let me get this straight, people are supposed to move out of town if they want to own a pet chicken? How many families do you think have enough money to afford a farm, so they can have one? Moving out to a farm is not always possible. Chickens can be successfully kept as pets, in town. Most of the major cities in US allow them, and recognize them as pets. New york allows ownership of up to four them. They have no issues, nor complaints about chickens. The humane society of the united states recognizes them as one of the most popular pets in the US. They do not bring down down property values, nor attract pests, or stink. That is all a huge myth spread by people who don't know a thing about keeping them. Who think they are nothing but farm animals. Instead of complaining about the cities decision to allow them, do some research on the benefits of keeping urban chickens. Chicken poop can be used to fertilize gardens and lawns. Dog and cat poop smells a heck of a lot worse then chicken poop does. How do I know this? I used to raise chickens, and my sister also keeps her own flock of backyard chickens. Chickens are also a lot cleaner and easier to keep then a dog, or a cat. If the city regulates them strictly(which most who allow them do), they should have no problems nor complaints. Besides that, you will have access to fresh eggs. not the factory farmed crap, from abused chickens you buy at walmart


Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 4:04 p.m.

I cannot believe that Ypsilanti Township would even consider this. Chickens are meant to live on farms not on a single family home lot in a subdivision. I certainly would not want to purchase a 200K house next to someone who has chickens living in their back yard. Do you think these people are going to pick up the chicken S#@& to keep it from smelling?? People with dogs can't even do that!!


Fri, Apr 13, 2012 : 11:40 p.m.

I would love to live next to someone who has chickens. Fresh eggs, duh! Who says chickens are only for "farms"? Who made that rule? You? You obviously don't know the area, these are NOT 200K houses, 30-40K maybe, if your lucky. Facts: Chickens themselves do not smell. This is a fact. It is only their feces that has the potential to smell which is also true of feces from dogs, cats, rabbits or any other animal that is outside. A 4-pound laying hen produces 0.0035 cu ft of manure per day. According to FDA, an average dog generates 3/4 of a pound of manure a day that cannot be composted because of the harmful bacteria and parasites (hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms) that can infect humans. This waste is considered a major source of bacterial pollution in urban watersheds. Source: Dog waste contains higher concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus than cows, chickens or pigs and is a major contributor of excessive nutrients that flow into ground and surface waters through runoff from city sidewalks and lawns. Source: The reason people fear an odor problem is because their only experience with chickens, if they have any at all, is on a farm or commercial poultry operation. Under these circumstances, hundreds if not thousands of chickens are sometimes kept in crowded conditions with poor ventilation and without proper cleaning. DIE! As a result, ammonia can build up and these facilities can stink. There is a huge difference between these environments and the the very popular and rapidly growing hen movement. A backyard chicken coop housing 6-8 does not create the odor issue that is concerning some residents.

Richard Roe

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 7:32 p.m.

People with dogs are held accountable by ordinance to clean up after their pets, just as those with a few hens will be.

Lac Court Orilles

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 2:40 p.m.

Congratulations young lady! Ypsilanti Township residents will be indebted to you for having the ordinance rewritten to reflect what's already happening in and around this township.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 2:38 a.m.

FREE teh chickens; let there be (more) EGGS!


Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 12:19 a.m.

Bad Idea.

Richard Roe

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 3:26 p.m.

The bottom of that article does give suggestions on how to properly care for your backyard flock, and ways to go about not supporting controversial hatcheries.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 2:42 a.m.

philospophy statement from above: "At Sunnyskies Bird and Animal Sanctuary, we do not use pesticides--we use only environmentally friendly products. We do not eat animals." at elast we know where htey are coming form.

Michigan Reader

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 10:01 p.m.

The right to farm act gives EXISTING farms protection from nearby residental development, i.e. an existing farm can't be declared a nuisance in court for its farming activities as long as it follows "generally acceptable Department of Agriculture guidelines" It doesn't trump city or township (or village) ordinances.

Michigan Reader

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:08 a.m.

Also, I think it's a safe and viable way to get fresh eggs, and it looks like the township government is looking for a way to make it a reality.

Michigan Reader

Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 1:06 a.m.

@vinnie22m--I'm really not against it, I don't even live in Ypsi Township. I'm just stating the law, maybe too passionately.


Sat, Apr 14, 2012 : 12:03 a.m.

@Michigan Reader, why are you against this? simply because its the way it is? do you not have a real opinion? Just curious to know, thanks.

Michigan Reader

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 12:29 a.m.

@Richard Roe--I'll just make two more points then give it a rest. Papadelis mostly was about the validity of Troy's zoning ordinances (in favor of the plaintiffs.) Also, the Right to Farm Act only trumps local law when the Right to Farm Act applies. It doesn't apply to the residents in the article above.

Richard Roe

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 11:32 p.m.

Touche...but one could see how a future court case may come to the same conclusions.

Michigan Reader

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

@Richard Roe--Papadelis v. Troy is an unpublished opinion, and so is not binding precedent.

Richard Roe

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 3:19 p.m.

The MRTFA has been held up in court to allow farms to move into residential areas, in Papadelis v. Troy: "we are aware that . . . a business could conceivably move into an established residential neighborhood and start a farm or farm operation in contravention of local zoning ordinances as long as the farm or farm operation conforms to generally accepted agricultural and management practices. Although we might personally disagree with the wisdom of the policy choice . . . we are without the authority to override the clearly expressed intent of the legislature." Also, the amendment to RTFA in 2000 gives new language preempting "trumping" local zoning. M.C.L. 286.474(6) and (7)

Michigan Reader

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 10:03 p.m.

The Right to Farm Act gives protection from urban sprawl.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 8:01 p.m.

And they wonder why Ypsilanti got the nick-name Ypsi-tucky??


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 9:09 p.m.

Chelsea just passed something similar. What do we call them?

Monica R-W

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 9 p.m.

Suzanne, This is in Ypsilanti TOWNSHIP, not the city of Ypsilanti. Also, Ypsi-tucky was a term, no longer used, to describe Southern residents who migrated to Ypsilanti during the manufacturing boom of the 1950's & 1960's eras. It had nothing to do with owing chickens on personal property.

Julie Tanguay

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 5:23 p.m.

I'm very happy Ypsi Township is considering this. I love (and miss) having chickens.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

When did Ypsi Township come under the jurisdiction of the 36th District Court ["the case went in front of 36th District Court Judge Charles Pope"]. Judge Pope is the judge in the 14-B District Court. The 36th District Court covers the City of Detroit. Even if cannot afford proofreaders, how about some proofscanners.

Tom Perkins

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 5:28 p.m.

A correction has been made. Thanks.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

There's nothing wrong with urban farming, and I do understand the argument about needing at least 5 acres for farm animals under the current zoning. My question is that if you knew that you weren't allowed to have farm animals here, why are you living here? Frankly barnyard animals will make your nice friendly street look like a barnyard. Your right, there aren't any studies showing that it would decrease property values because it's common sense, so who would spend millions studying it? Would we have any regulations that say they must be kept in the backyard? Or do I need to worry about kids walking down the sidewalk being attacked by angry mother hens because someone put the chicken coop in their front yard and the chickens got out (for those of you who like the *idea* of having chickens, they are VERY good at escaping also wild animals are VERY good at getting into a chicken coop). Honestly, you can find 5 acres of land within 10 miles of the city. If your upset because that's a long way to ride your bike in the morning, then get up earlier. Can't afford 5 acres? Start selling your chickens. Wanna be a farmer? be a farmer. Wanna live in a city? Stick to a vegetable garden and become a vegetarian. There simply is NO good reason why we should allow chickens to roam free on the streets of Ypsilanti Township.


Thu, Jul 26, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

I guess you can't read or chose not to! As the second most governed State in the Union it is no wonder Townships and City's like Ypsilanti are always asking for "more" money!

Richard Roe

Thu, Apr 12, 2012 : 10:10 p.m.

If you are indeed a resident of Ypsilanti Township I would encourage you to PM me and you can be involved in the drafting of the ordinance. We are encouraging all residents who have concerns to be involved and educated on the restrictions that will be included in the ordinance. And no-one lives off of what a bear or alligator produces.


Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 4:45 p.m.

To ThaKillaBee: You're correct, they aren't going to be "allowed" to roam free. But what happens when a tree branch falls on your chicken wire? Are the chickens going to stand around saying "Oh, I see the opening, but we know we're not supposed to run out of there"? Also, according to your logic, if I want to keep an alligator or maybe a live bear on my property I should be allowed to do so? To Richard: I understand that You may take meticulous care of your animals. My problem is Billy Bob down the street, who sees your success at chicken farming, goes to Home Depot, buys some wire and some stakes, then gets some chickens and decides he's now a chicken farmer. Who will see to it that Mr Billy Bob is a competent enough farmer to provide for his chickens? Or to educate the children next door not to go poking about because chickens are actually quite violent animals? I'm not afraid of the educated "I've researched this and I KNOW what I'm doing" owners. I'm worried about the "Oh hey, that's cool, I want a chicken now so I'll go get one and figure it out as I go" owners. Also, I wasn't attacking your "socioeconomic status and eco-responsibility" but instead trying to bring some rationality and intelligence to the argument. If your smart enough to know where you can and can't have these creatures that are so vital to your personal existence and well-being, why live in an area where they aren't allowed? At Snarf-Oscar-etc: Not letting them out of your sight? How are you going to go to work? How can you go to the feed store? How are you going to sleep? You can't physically watch them for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At both ThaKilla and Snarf: Where did I say "Roam Free"? My arguments were towards escaped chickens.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Wed, Apr 11, 2012 : 2:45 a.m.

... "roam free on the streets" ?????????? like, hello-no! not letting them outta my site.

Richard Roe

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 5:48 p.m.

First, I don't think that quite understand what it is that is being advocated here, so I encourage you to get involved and come out while we work out this ordinance. Furthermore, you act as if we would not take meticulous care of our animals, or that we would advocate that others don't have to as well; "roam free" is a rather ignorant statement as well. Also, its ridiculous to suggest that just because of my socioeconomic status and eco-responsibility that I should be required to live further away and own a large parcel of land that I don't really need. P.S. many vegetarians eat eggs and dairy.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 5:46 p.m.

They aren't going to be allowed to roam free. If I want to keep a bird or two on my own property, I should be allowed to do so, whether or not it skives you out.

Ron Granger

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

I love chicken. And fresh eggs. But backyard chickens are so yesterday. I'm holding out for a Woolly Mammoth. Nothing says "welcome home!" like a happy Woolly Mammoth bouncing in your yard. And, they'll keep the pitbulls away.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

You wonder why they even need a law for something like this until you read the story and realize the Township paid for at least four official trips to the outlaw's home and closed the case by using an off-duty Washtenaw County Sheriff's deputy as an informer. This all took a month. It's not even a crime, folks; it's an ordinance violation, a civil infraction. Law enforcement, at least in Ypsilanti Township, seems to now mine a rich mother lode of unused enforcement and investigatory time-hours. That may explain why they squandered so many resources on this cockamamie case, but it will make it hard to keep a straight face next time they come knocking for more millage.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

Just curious where it ends. If the next guy wants to raise sheep for meat or goats for milk will that be okay? My neighbor started with 3 hens and then added pea hens and turkeys. Not much different but very annoying. Loud and smelly and they do attract all sorts of predators including raccoons and coyotes.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:47 p.m.

Read that last comment Bee. I don't think that it ends at chickens.

Richard Roe

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:26 p.m.

Right now the issue is the chicken ordinance, but it is also bigger than that. There is nothing wrong with farming to be self-sufficient, and right now to do anything more than gardening you have to have 5 acres of land. Urban farmers don't need that much land and also many don't drive a gas powered vehicle as a main mode of transport. Forcing us to move where 5 acres are even available is for the most part expensive and outside of reasonable biking/walking distance to places we work, play, and shop.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:16 p.m.

Well, I didn't pick up any facetiousness, you sounded quite serious. Yes, I agree, nothing is ever black/white. Luckily it seems this ordinance will take common concerns into account and allow for opposed citizens to have valid complaints remedied.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

I was being facetious. It's not all rosy the way chicken proponents would have you believe and it is not all doom and gloom as others would. Chickens are farm animals and there are good reasons that farm animals are zoned. I only worry that many ordinances are passed without proper exploration of all of the facts.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

It ends with chickens. If a chicken ordinance is adopted, and someone gets a goat -- well, that wouldn't be covered under the chicken ordinance. You do have the right to complain if someone has a sheep on their property that shouldn't have it. Turkeys, too. A chicken ordinance wouldn't change that. As for racoons and coyotes... cats and dogs can attract them, too, if you leave them out all the time. The ordinance would require the chickens be kept in a secure enclosure at all times. At night, when racoons and coyotes are more likely to prowl, the chickens would presumably have the shelter of a coop to sleep in. So if racoons and coyotes are seriously a problem, the owner is really doing something wrong.


Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:24 p.m.

Not sure that I would ever want to take on the responsibity of raising chickens, but I'm glad others will have that option. Good job Ypsilanti Township.

Richard Roe

Tue, Apr 10, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

Very nice coverage and good turnout at the meeting, all that attended must start the discussion and debunking at your local NHW meetings ASAP. Let's get Ypsilanti Township to be THE place to live for urban farming, local food and sustainability!