Statement from MacKenzie Bailey, Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association

Addressed to the Franklin County Planning Commission on a Zoning Amendment Regarding Chickens, Ducks and Rabbits
Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Good afternoon and thank you for accepting my request to speak today about the proposed zoning amendment to allow chickens, ducks, and rabbits on lots less than 5 acres.  My name is MacKenzie Bailey and I am the Policy Program Coordinator for the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, or OEFFA.

Since our start 34 years ago, OEFFA has been dedicated to promoting and supporting sustainable, ecological, and healthy food systems.  Today we have a membership of more than 3,200 dedicated farmers, consumers, gardeners, and homesteaders, including more than 300 members in Franklin Co.

Together we are working to recreate regionally-scaled farming, processing, and distributions systems that move food from farm to local fork.  We are extremely encouraged to hear about the county’s efforts to make allowances for small livestock that will strengthen local food security, give consumers more of a connections to their food, and potentially save Franklin Co. residents money,

In February, OEFFA submitted comments to the County Economic Development and Planning Department that we felt would improve the practical application of the Zoning Amendment.

After reading the most recent draft of the amendment, it is clear that the County looked carefully at each comment submitted and made thoughtful adjustments – changes that have both simplified and clarified the requirements, and which will allow animal owners to more easily comply with the regulations.

Namely, OEFFA was pleased to see a reduction in the fencing requirements for lots more than 1 acre; more flexibility in the disposal, storage, and application of manure; and reference to the standards established by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.

For us, one area of concern remains – the restriction on the number of animals allowed on lots larger than 1 acre. In our original comments we recommended two dozen birds for every acre of land. We stand by that recommendation for two primary reasons:

1)      The first is that – The current allotment is too small for a family to sustain themselves.  According to Harvey Ussery, author of The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, a family of four requiring two eggs per day per person would need a flock of a dozen laying hens.

If the same family would like to raise chickens for meat, they would need many more animals.  In our original comments, we provided a conservative estimate that if a family of four ate one bird a week they would need 52 birds for the year.  I spoke with a chicken farmer who explained to me that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect a family to bring those birds to slaughter on a quarterly basis.  Meaning at any one point in time this family of four would need a minimum of 25 birds.

Depending on a family’s individual circumstances, they may need more birds.

When OEFFA originally submitted comments, the rule appeared to count rabbits separate from birds, now it counts all animals on a point system. This change would further restrict a family who preferred to produce their own supply of meat and eggs.

2)      The other point I’d like to make is that birds do not require much space, and as acreage increases the likelihood that they would create a nuisance or public health concern decreases. In fact, as a comparison, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards allow for as many as 43,560 laying hens per acre. Granted those allotments are intended for commercial use, but it illustrates just how little space two dozen birds would require.

For these reasons, and because it is important to OEFFA and our members that the rules meet their intent, I ask the County to consider raising the number of animals allowed to two dozen per acre.

I’d like to end my comments today on a personal note.  I am not an Ohio native. I transplanted here five years ago from Buffalo, NY. One of the reasons I’ve stayed in Ohio, and plan to remain here, is that the local food economy is thriving. I appreciate the value of keeping my dollars local and even more so, I enjoy the strong sense of community that is associated with the local food movement.  I’m proud to live in a county that is proactively creating policies that support homesteaders, farmers markets, and food cart businesses. In the future, I hope the County considers expanding the rules to cover commercial production.

Nevertheless, I want to emphasis how appreciative OEFFA is to have these new allowances in place and thank you again for your efforts, as well as to have the opportunity to provide input on this important issue.