BEDFORD, N.Y. - Katonah resident Pauline Schneider will appear Wednesday before the Bedford Zoning Board of Appeals with a unique request: to continue keeping four chickens in her backyard.
At a 7:30 p.m. public hearing to be held at 425 Cherry Street, Schneider will present her case for a variance of the Bedford zoning ordinance to keep chickens on her property, which lies in a 1/4-acre zoning area. The current zoning code only permits keeping of fowl in 1/2-acre, 1, 2 and 4-acre zoning districts.
The zoning code is outdated and needs to be amended, Schneider said, in part because the current health code does not match up. “The interesting thing is that the health code does not stipulate how many chickens or how much acreage or how close they can be," she said.
Schneider, of 19 South Road, added that even in urban areas like New York City, zoning laws do not have the same stipulations regarding the keeping of chickens.
Earlier in 2012, said the six-year Katonah resident, she and her neighbors noticed a preponderance of rats in their neighborhood and had been using plaster of Paris traps to bait the rodents. In October, Schneider said, one of her neighbors suggested to the town that perhaps Schneider's animals were attracting the rats: it was then that Schneider learned she was breaking the zoning code.
Schneider said she has not seen any rats in her neighborhood in months. The major attractive sources of nutrition for rats, she said, are excess seed or feed from bird feeders, pet food and water bowls kept outside, as well as vegetable gardens - all of which have always been part of suburban neighborhoods.
According to Schneider, a local gardening sustainability volunteer/activist, chickens are clean animals that are easily kept in small coops. They do not create bad smells or attract flies and rodents, nor do they make noise or pose a health or safety risk to the neighborhood, she said.
Schneider said chickens make it possible for owners to produce their own food, like fresh eggs that are safe and healthy to eat. Three of her chickens currently lay three eggs each day, she said. Chickens also provide natural fertilizer and facilitate pest control.
“Then there’s the human part,” said Schneider. “They are very sweet and easy to take care of. They have personalities and they’re really amazing creatures.”
Looking ahead to Wednesday's meeting, Schneider said, “I don’t know what to expect. I know the board is a great group of people. This is an amazing town and very sustainability-focused, and very conscious of local food and energy.”
But no matter what the board’s decision, Schneider said, she and her supportive neighbors will work with the town’s planning board to amend the code.