Oakland County 4-H’ers’ actions enable informed discussion on Ferndale chicken ordinance passing

Chickens won't be crossing the road in Ferndale, Mich., but they will be able to live within 10 feet of their owners' homes. Some 4-H club members played a part in the city's decision regarding poultry dwellings.

Chickens won’t be crossing the road in Ferndale, Mich., but they will be able to live within 10 feet of their owners’ homes. Some 4-H club members played a part in the city’s decision regarding poultry dwellings.

In August 2011, Sue Stapleton, Michigan State University Extension 4-H program coordinator, received a phone call from a member of the Ferndale City Planning Commission. With the rise in popularity of consuming local foods, people are showing a renewed interest in raising poultry. The commission planned to recommend an ordinance change in September 2011 to allow residents to keep up to three hens in their backyards with a city permit, keeping the poultry at least 10 feet from any structure. An existing ordinance allowed chicken coops within 150 feet of any structure. The change in restriction would potentially bring more chickens to Ferndale. Some local residents were leery of the potential problems – such as noise, unsanitary conditions and vermin – more chickens within the city limits might bring. The commission member called on Stapleton to help educate citizens on the proper raising of chickens. Stapleton knew that the Oakland County 4-H Poultry Club led by Maria Fortin would lend a willing hand.

The Oakland County 4-H Poultry Club consists of kids ages 5 to 19 who meet twice a month in the Lake Orion-Oxford area. Although the club members are not from Ferndale, they saw this as an opportunity to help another community. The opportunity allowed the 4-H’ers to get involved, learning citizenship and leadership skills along the way.

The club members spent three Saturdays in a borrowed garage building a chicken coop, using funds from the 4-H club treasury. On Sept. 14, 2011, the evening of the planning commission public hearing to discuss the local ordinance, the kids displayed the chicken coop – complete with hens – on the lawn in front of Ferndale’s city hall. A dozen of the members shared their poultry expertise with local citizens before the meeting. The young people emphasized that proper care of poultry will lead to healthy and clean birds, eliminating or reducing some of the problems about which citizens raised concerns.

The 4-H’ers and their parents attended the planning commission meeting, getting the opportunity to hear arguments both for and against the ordinance, and learning about how local government works.

The Ferndale Planning Commission unanimously passed the recommendation that night. The next step was approval by the city council. On Jan. 9, the Ferndale City Council unanimously approved the ordinance change.

It’s difficult to measure how much influence the 4-H club had on the council’s decision, but the members gained a positive outlook on the impact of getting involved and of being responsible.

Sue Stapleton said, “The kids were made aware the mission was a success. They had the opportunity to promote 4-H from within their ranks and participate in a citizenship project. Even though they are not from Ferndale, the kids and their parents made a commitment to prepare themselves with information to talk to the people with questions. This was a positive for the people in Ferndale as well as for the kids.”

These Oakland County 4-H’ers joined the ranks of the Revolution of Responsibility, a movement for positive change within communities across America in which young people across the country make a difference by doing the right thing. The Oakland County 4-H Poultry Club stepped up to the challenge, sharing their knowledge and expertise on poultry with the citizens of Ferndale. This enabled an informed discussion among citizens and the commission, which perhaps ultimately led to the passing of the ordinance in Ferndale.

Read more and see photos here.

Did you find this article useful?

You Might Also Be Interested In