Falls council to consider fowl ordinance

It is one of the newest groups on Facebook.

Formed on Saturday, it already has 53 members and they'll be paying close attention to Wednesday night's Niagara Falls City Council meeting.

The folks behind the Facebook page "Cataract City Chickens" say they're "interested in advocating for bringing fresh eggs to the city's food desert. They are advocating for officials in the City of Niagara Falls to allow poultry to be grown within city limits and for their group to be able to share information about "backyard chickens."

Councilman Kenny Tompkins is a convert to their cause.

"There have been people who've been talking to me about chickens for years now," Tompkins said. "I had always said, 'No chickens. No chickens. No chickens.'"

But after seeing a story about a recent incident in the city involving a homeowner with a rooster, and a couple of chickens, Tompkins said he reached out to the Falls Police Department's animal control officer for his perspective.

"So when I spoke with (Officer) Dave Bower, he told me there are probably hundreds of chickens in the city," Tompkins said.

Raising chickens in the Falls is illegal, but Bower also told Tompkins that having laying chickens (those that produce fresh eggs) in an urban environment has been permitted in Buffalo for more than a decade. Bower suggested that he take a look at Buffalo's ordinance governing the keeping of chickens.

Tompkins was impressed and has introduced legislation that would bring the Buffalo experience to the Falls. 

"I had the law department prepare an ordinance that is a direct copy of Buffalo's," he said. "Word for word, it is the same. You just substitute Niagara Falls for Buffalo."

The ordinance has a number of requirements that have to be met before someone can put up a coop and start raising hens in their backyard. First among them is a requirement that all contiguous neighbors must give their approval to having chickens next to their properties.

"I, personally, don't want to raise chickens," Tompkins said. "But I don't care if my neighbors do."

The proposed ordinance would also set up inspection requirements for coops and their maintenance. And there would be a yearly fee charged by the city. 

"If you don't keep it clean, you could lose your chickens," Tompkins said. "Oh, and no roosters."

With Tompkins as the resolution's only sponsor, the ordinance faces an uncertain reception from the full council.

"I said I would bring (the ordinance ) forward, but it's up to (those pushing the raising of chickens in the Falls) to sell it to the rest of the council," Tompkins said. "Whether they've sold it, I don't know."

Supporters reportedly have a petition with more than 300 signatures to present to the council. On the Cataract City Chickens Facebook page, supporters of the new ordinance were urging members to send emails to council members as well.

Tompkins said other council members have told them they are "doing their research" before deciding whether to support the ordinance.

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