Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Determined Teen Wins Chicken Fight

By Annette Kingsbury
Staff Writer
The Observer and Eccentric
November 1, 2001
State of Michigan

Once upon a time, not so long ago, Troy was mostly farmland.

But nowadays there's no agricultural zoning to be found. So when city officials learned that a 16-year-old resident was keeping chickens, she was told they had to go.

No one complained about Tyra, Rosita, Teala, Aaliyah and Fuji. They're clean, quiet, good neighbors. But one day, when a storm blew a fence down, the chickens escaped from their yard and were spotted by a city worker, who reported them to animal control.

Since city ordinance does not allow the keeping of chickens, their owner, 16-year-old Kimberly Bulloch, appealed to the city's Animal Control Appeal Board in September. She wrote a two-page statement and appeared in person with her family to deliver it.

After hearing that her neighbors didn't even realize she had chickens, the board voted to recommend a variance to city council. Eventually, Kimberly was told she would not have to take her appeal any further, though she was prepared to do so.

No one would mistake Kimberly, a dedicated animal lover, for a farmer. A young artist who is being home-schooled this year (she'll return to Zoe Christian Academy next year), she considers the chickens to be pets, not livestock, just like her six rabbits, two dogs and fish. Though she eats their eggs, she would never consider eating chicken -- any chicken. "I was upset that they said I couldn't have my chickens because they're not livestock, they're pets; they're little," she said. "So I didn't care if I went before city council. I would do anything to keep them." Kimberly got her first chicken, Tyra, a big yellow hen, three years ago as a chick from her uncle's farm. She was an only chick for the first year and had the run of the place.

"She thought she was a dog because she came into our house and everything," Kimberly said. "So my mom and grandma kept telling me either get rid of her or get her some chicken friends. That's when I got the eggs and incubated them."

Four more chickens -- three old English game bantams and a black English Cochin -- were added to the family after Kimberly brought them home as eggs and incubated them until they hatched.

"They're all really tame. They let me hold them and everything," she said. "They love tomatoes and watermelon and bread. I give them treats all the time."

Until recently, the chickens were allowed to use the Bullochs' entire back yard and to sleep in a box in the garage on cold winter nights. Kimberly said she kept a close eye on them, though a high fence around the yard protects them against most predators.

"When they want to go to bed they come up to the front door and make a lot of noise and I let them in," she said.

However since their escape, Kimberly, her brother Jonathon, her father and grandfather have built a coop. Now, the chickens have a shelter as well as a fenced area attached so they can go outside. The coop has a translucent roof to allow for passive solar heat. The fenced run is partially shaded by a big evergreen tree.

With all the new amenities, Kimberly said she will probably just add a heat lamp for cold winter nights. That should keep everybody happy. "My mom only complains when they go on the deck and poop," Kimberly said. "Other than that, they're fine."

Kimberly has learned a lot from her self-imposed science lesson, though that was certainly not her original intent.

"Tyra lays different shades of brown eggs. It depends on what they eat; that can determine the color of the egg. My little game bantams, they lay little white eggs. The Cochin, Aaliyah, she lays brown eggs," she said. "My eggs sort of taste different because my chickens are healthier than chickens raised in a facility. Mine get protein from their insects and they get their grass.

"They're happy."

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Revised Friday, November 2, 2001

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture