Much Ado About Chicken Coups

By William Bigelow

I was surprised and disappointed Tuesday night to witness the Chicken Ordinance be tabled for now. It should be noted that the three members of the Berryville Town Council who voted it down were not the ones on the relevant committees that had worked on it. Chances are, at least one or two have not even read through the proposal. The opposition to hens in Berryville was clearly overstated. While Douglas Shaffer concluded he should vote against it due to constituent opposition, he did mention at the meeting that most of the opposed citizens lived in areas of town that are governed by HOA covenants. When he explained to them that those covenants would keep chickens out of their part of town, they did not mind the ordinance. I have a hunch that Mayor Kirby didn’t talk to anyone except for some residents of that part of town.

It is short-sighted to reject the ordinance on account of the advertising and legal personnel costs. For one thing, by dropping it now as opposed to earlier, there will have already been money spent on this issue. It is irresponsible therefore not to proceed on something like this with such high benefits and minimal risks as assured by the ordinance’s parameters. While Mary Daniel did a very good job addressing any concerns about health problems caused by chickens, the public health benefits were not addressed at this meeting. Chickens actually make for good disease CONTROL as they eat bugs including Lyme disease-carrying ticks. Residents of Berryville would also have the opportunity to eat far healthier eggs and chicken, and save on their grocery bills at the same time. It would lead to less gasoline usage and, more importantly, less chemical weed and pest control management. These are environmental and public health benefits, among others, that should not be ignored.

Not only are legal hens good enough for Leesburg and Purcellville, they are legal in places like Arlington County and the City of Roanoke. Most towns and cities in Virginia actually do not experience problems with egg layers in urban situations. The chicken ordinance here would keep order quite well, as hen owners would need to know the rules with regard to noise, waste, structures, etc. In fact, the neighbor consent provision almost made the legislation too restrictive. Fortunately, in an auspicious sign, the Town Council and staff expressed near unanimous concern about this being in it, so hopefully it’ll not make it through if hen legalization passes in Berryville eventually.

Finally, I would like to add that it is highly ironic that in the most agricultural county in Northern Virginia we do not permit hen ownership in its county seat, whereas our more urban neighbors to the east have it!


William Bigelow is a Berryville resident.