Whenever I feel the need to indulge my “living off the grid” fantasies, a project is born. Actually, a series of projects is usually born. (Seriously, I have books about how to build a self-sustaining house and love the idea of living off of the land in my “someday” life. Puerto Rico would be nice.) Around this time last year, I did my research on how to keep chickens and ordered chicks. This set off a series of projects I am now able to refer to as the Chicken Era, with only a slight PTSD twitch.
In June, the chicks arrived via the U.S. mail and I applied for an Animal Permit from my town.
This is when I learned that my town required the same property line set-backs for keeping chickens, as they required for keeping horses, cows and pigs. This is when I also learned that one of my neighbors had an inability to rationally discuss chickens.
I put my chicken coop next to my patio, as far away from my neighbors as possible. If you only have a few chickens, they don’t smell or make much noise, so I didn’t mind having the coop near my house. I actually liked sitting next to the coop and watching the chickens while I had my coffee in the morning.
In spite of my efforts to be considerate and minimize their exposure to the chickens, my irrational neighbors still would not agree to a variance. So, I did what any reasonable person would do – I decided to get the set-back laws changed.
With the unwavering support of my beau, Jonathan, and the enthusiastic help of my friend, Ingrid, I researched the set-back laws and requirements in other towns, spoke to the state poultry inspectors, garnered the support of local politicians, got my unbelievably generous neighbor, Gary, to set up www.needhambackyardchickens.com, and attended every one of my town’s Board of Health meetings (much to their displeasure!) until they had drafted new, more reasonable set-back laws for keeping chickens.
By the following February, the new laws were in place and I had to move my coop. Unfortunately, to comply with the set-backs on all sides, my coop had to be moved much closer to my irrational neighbors.
In fact, the coop was moved to the middle of my yard – which I actually don’t mind, because I can now see the chickens better from inside my house all day long and I can easily keep an eye out for the fox who occasionally visits in the early morning hours.
So, thank you, neighbor, for attempting to keep me from having chickens. You have liberated me from needing to please you and keeping myself small so you can feel big. You have reminded me that things do indeed work out the way they should. This whole process has shown me that being persistently rational pays off more than being irrational and has created a plenty perfect solution I never would have considered