New Facebook Page Advocates ‘Chickens for Barnegat’

By Eric Englund | Nov 15, 2019

Barnegat — Last month, Barnegat Township Committee members were thrown off guard during the public portion when the main topic was chickens. At that time, residents Christian Aguilar and Brandon Baker complained that an ordinance requiring that homeowners who raise chickens must have at least one acre of property was too restrictive. The two had recently been served summonses by the township code enforcement officer.

Subsequently Aguilar had his premises inspected by a state Department of Agriculture Livestock inspector, who said his methods of feeding, watering and keeping the chickens were found to be consistent with humane standards.

Aguilar, Baker and other residents spoke again at last week’s meeting. Sarai-ann Knott told officials that she helped launch a new Facebook page titled “Chickens for Barnegat.”

“We have 300 members and expect to get many more,” said Knott in a letter to Mayor Alfonso Cirulli. “The Facebook page provides support and advice to those who wish to keep a few hens in urban/suburban backyards as pets and for purposes of house egg-gathering. We also share stories and photos of our beloved feathered brethren, while promoting community and healthy living.”

Knott said urban farming and gardening are becoming “wildly popular” across the country as people are becoming much more involved in the quality of their food as well as animal welfare.“We are asking for your consideration in changing/revising the ordinance to allow residents to have a small flock of hens and a maximum of one rooster as roosters can provide protection for the hens. Chickens have been present in backyards of large and small cities, small towns and rural areas from time immemorial. Hens are not inherently just farm animals, any more than pigs or rabbits are.”

She said the space required to house chickens is two to three square feet per chicken inside the chicken coop and eight to 10 square feet per chicken in an outside run.

“While they might not seem like the most obviously affectionate of animals, most backyard chickens grow very accustomed to their owners, often delighting in being picked up, petted and talked to in a soft and gentle manner. Chickens can recognize up to 100 faces.”

Knott said chickens are environmentally friendly, as they divert waste from landfills.

“Up to 50 percent of all household waste is compostable, and chickens are happy to eat much of that waste,” she said. “Chicken poop is a great fertilizer. It  provides nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium to your plants. Chickens provide great natural pest control, eating bugs such as ticks, flies, mosquitoes and termites, thus reducing the use of pesticiides.”

Resident James Pearce said he disagrees with allowing chickens in Barnegat yards.

“I have a neighbor who had chickens, and during the summer, the scent was so unbearable we had to have summer birthdays at my grandparents because the smell was so bad.”

Baker said if there is a smell coming from the chicken coop, the individual is not taking care of the chickens.

“Chickens and coops normally don’t smell,” he said.

“They never smelled in my yard during the summer,” said Aguilar. “It’s all about maintenance.”

Cirulli said the ordinance would stay in place, and since the matter could be headed to court, the mayor declined further comment.

“I am not going to let this go,” said Aguilar. “I’m going to push this as far as I can go.”

— Eric Englund

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