Resident requests township to reconsider backyard chicken ordinance

Resident Joseph Clauss said chickens don't cause a disturbance, have minimal waste and can provide food for homeowners in terms of eggs.

During public comment at the most recent township committee meeting, Joseph Clauss asked the committee to amend an ordinance to allow backyard residential chickens.

Clauss said he owns six chickens, and he was given a 10-day notice on March 29 to remove them from his backyard.

“I feed my garden with their waste,” he said. “The kids love them on both sides of me, and I think it’s time to change it to say you can have six chickens in a coop. Teach your kids how to be outside and not inside.”

Clauss added he does not own any roosters, and he’s looking to have the committee max the ordinance out at six chickens.

“The coop I bought fits 12 chickens, and I’d never put that many in there,” he said. “They need a very small footprint, and six is all I want.”

Committeewoman Julie DeLaurentis said there are three complaints being heard in the municipal court, and they were about noise, smell and an unidentified homeowner’s inability to sell their home to potential buyers.

“We are not out of line with our neighbors,” said DeLaurentis. “South Harrison has a more restrictive ordinance where you have to have five or six acres. Our laws are that you have to have one clear acre of land with no buildings to have chickens.”

Mantua Township does not have an existing ordinance on the matter; Washington Township only allows it in rural, commercial and planned industrial zones; Woolwich allows chickens if they’re not put to commercial use on at least two acres of land; and Glassboro requires at least four acres to have chickens.

Clauss said the township could look into it with a pilot program to see how effective an ordinance would be. He added Woodbury, Cherry Hill, Pitman, Barrington, Haddon Township and Haddon Heights have done pilot programs before.

Neighbors Jay and Linda Pennypacker spoke during the public comment in support of Clauss and added they don’t smell the chickens nor do they consider them to be a nuisance.

“There’s a lady from Haddon Township (Gwenne Baile) who runs backyard chicken training classes,” said Jay. “She’ll also come to committees and support the backyard chicken agenda. She helped the township adopt it.”

“225-13 is the ordinance, and we would have to let the zoning board know about it,” said Brian Duffield, township solicitor. “It’s a residential zone and some towns put setbacks where it can’t be large, you need a number of feet where the coop is to the property line to protect the neighbors, and your yard had to be a certain size.”

Deputy Mayor Don Heim asked if there were issues of wildlife entering Clauss’ yard to prey on the poultry. Clauss said he had only a few instances of raccoons trying to dig under the coop, which he stopped with a fence.

The township committee agreed to request the Joint Land Use Board to reconsider the ordinance. The JLUB’s next meeting is scheduled for April 18 at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Courtroom.

In other news:

  • Jeffery George, who had a stent put in for a heart condition, also spoke during public comment to request permission from the township to place AEDs on the soccer fields. He added the devices are free – donated by various local organizations – and said those who would use it in an emergency are protected by the Good Samaritan law. Township Administrator Mark Gravinese said the township has had requests for the devices by other residents, but Trico Jif, insurance for Gloucester, Salem and Cumberland counties, has denied the requests. Gravinese said he’ll try to appeal again for the AEDs to be added.
  • An ordinance was adopted to formally ban smoking on municipal-owned property following the state’s Clean Air Act in 2018. Vaping and e-cigarettes are included in the ban.
  • Solicitor permits were approved for solar panel company Sunny Corp from April to Sept. 30, Monday through Friday, from noon to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for solicitors Matthew Sheldon and Joseph Duffin.

The next township meeting is scheduled for April 15 at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Courtroom. For the story on the proposed budget, visit MullicaHillSun.com. A public hearing for the budget is scheduled for May 6 at 7 p.m.