By Ivan Raconteur
MAYER, MN With names like Floppy, Violet, Daisy, Sweetie Pie, and Ruby, they hardly sound like hardened criminals. Their coop looks more like something designed by Beatrix Potter than an outlaws’ hideout, but under current city ordinance, the chickens owned by the Boyd family of Mayer are a violation of the law.
The family is working with the city to change that.
When it was brought to the city’s attention that the family was keeping chickens in town, staff followed procedure, notifying the Boyds they were in violation of city code, and giving them 10 days to remove the chickens.
The Boyds were devastated, and attended last Monday’s city council meeting to appeal the decision.
Linnea Boyd; her husband, Bob; and their daughters Bella, 12; Adda, 8; and Lucia, 3, were on hand to explain how the chickens are part of their lives.
Linnea said the family purchased the hens when they were 1 day old as an addition to their organic lifestyle, and to move a step closer to self-sufficiency.
At first, the chickens were raised in the family kitchen, and were later moved to a chicken coop with an attached fenced-in run.
“They are our pets,” Linnea said. “They are part of our family.”
They are so much a part of the family that last year, the Boyds included the chickens in the family photo they used for their Christmas card.
The chickens greet them each morning, and the family enjoys interacting with the chickens throughout the day.
Linnea explained that they are a home school family, and all of the family members help to care for the chickens.
Each family member has his or her own chicken, as well.
The Boyds lived in Victoria when they bought the chickens about a year and a half ago. They moved to Mayer at the beginning of June.
Linnea admitted she didn’t check the city ordinance when they moved to Mayer. She said they assumed that because they were moving further away from the metro area, keeping chickens wouldn’t be a problem.
She said the chickens also contribute an important part of the family’s diet.
The Boyds feed the chickens organic feed from Waconia Farm Supply, as well as some leftover scraps from the family table, such as watermelon.
Although their reason for keeping chickens is based on their own needs, the Boyds also understand the rights of other city residents, and take steps to ensure their chickens don’t disturb their neighbors.
They have done some research and they explained how they have addressed concerns neighbors might have.
• Odor the Boyds keep their chicken coop clean, replacing the straw every other week, and changing all the bedding material monthly.
• Noise the Boyds only have hens. There are no roosters, and therefore no crowing. Linnea explained that some people don’t realize it is possible to have laying hens without having a rooster.
Linnea noted the hens go to their roosts at dusk, and sleep there all night.
• Animals at large Linnea said the chicken coop and run are fully contained and safe to keep predators from getting in, and the chickens from getting out.
The Boyds said they understand the council’s need to regulate animals within the city, and they support animals being kept in a responsible manner.
Linnea noted that keeping chickens or any animals involves responsibility, and said because they home school their children, they are at home much of the time and able to take care of the chickens.
The Boyds have also taken steps to screen their chicken run to make it less conspicuous.
She submitted lists of other cities small and large that allow chickens, and offered to help the city draft a new ordinance under which chickens are allowed.
Council Member Tice Stieve-McPadden said she sometimes hears the chickens briefly in the morning, but she does not consider it a problem.
“Dogs are much more annoying than chickens in this town,” Stieve-McPadden commented.
Linnea said when they talked to their neighbors about the chickens, some didn’t even know they had chickens, and none of the neighbors to whom they talked objected to the Boyds keeping chickens.
Stieve-McPadden said the only complaint the city has received came from the resident who was denied permission to keep chickens last year.
It was noted that another resident approached the council last year asking for permission to keep chickens for his daughter’s 4-H project, but that applicant didn’t have some of the things in place that the council would have liked to see.
Council Member Erick Boder said his concern is not the people who are taking care of their animals, but those who don’t.
Linnea said regulations and license fees can help weed out the people who aren’t going to take care of their animals.
Boder said he was open to re-considering the issue.
“I’m willing to work through it and put something in place,” Mayor Mike Dodge said.
“For me to be in favor, there would have to be strict enforcement,” Boder said, adding that this is the second request the city has had, and there may be more.
“I think it’s time we look at our ordinance and maybe change it,” Council Member Bruce Osborn said.
The council unanimously voted to allow the Boyds to keep their chickens for now, until the council makes a decision on a possible ordinance change.
Since Tuesday’s meeting, Linnea and City Administrator Luayn Murphy have been working together researching options. Linnea said they have been receiving sample ordinances from cities that allow chickens, as well as forms some of them use for residents who wish to apply to keep chickens.
Linnea and Murphy will review things that have been successful in other communities, and will present a recommendation to the council in September.