Our post-pandemic world is a changed one. Many people want to be more self-reliant and have picked up new hobbies and interests that they otherwise wouldn’t have. This ranges from making clothes to painting to gardening, and everything in between. One of the trendiest of these “hobbies” birthed from the pandemic is chicken ownership. With the popularity of chicken ownership (and egg prices) on the rise, Montclair has stepped in to make sure it’s regulated — with the chickens’ well-being at the forefront. Read on to learn more about raising and keeping chickens, and what Montclair has to say about it.
Rules + Regs
As chickens become more and more prevalent in the area, the township, alongside animal control, decided it was time to pass laws to regulate the practice while also protecting the chickens. Montclair has passed stringent laws surrounding animals in general over the past couple of years — and chickens were not left out.
A year ago, Councilor-at-Large Peter Yacobellis met with the Humane Society to discuss what to do at a policy level in regards to pet protection. As a result, Montclair banned furriers and passed legislation banning the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores. The community’s opinion on pet ownership has changed over the years and many feel their pets are family. As a result, the city is keeping up with that by offering assistance, helpful tips, education, and new legislation.
Animal Control Supervisor, Michele Shiber, was reviewing animal ordinances and realized that Montclair had antiquated laws for chickens. Previously, Montclair did not require registration for chicken ownership so it was unclear how many chickens were in the area. Now, registration is required along with some important updates to the care of chickens.
Most importantly, Montclair now requires a minimum coop, yard, and run size for chicken owners. These regulations help encourage natural chicken behavior and put their health at the forefront. Michele and her team are also able to assist in ensuring coops are predator-proof. You are also not allowed to own roosters which serves two purposes — one, to ensure there is no breeding going on, and two for the sake of your neighbors.
These laws are not meant to hinder chicken ownership but to enhance it. By passing these regulations, our city is protecting the chickens the owners love so much while also making sure they do not become a major nuisance.
Read More: Animal Rescues in Northern New Jersey
Resources for Chicken Owners
There is a popular Facebook group called “Montclair Chickens,” moderated by Michele, where chicken owners discuss a variety of chicken-related topics. The group is a support system — and a great place to show off your chickens.
Michele is also sharing new regulations and providing a lot of resources to our community about chicken ownership — some of which can be found here. She has also been connecting with local veterinarians to find more practices that will treat chickens, further ensuring that their well-being is the community’s top priority.
The animal control website also has an entire page titled, “Helpful Links for Chicken Ownership” to ensure that everyone has access to as much information as possible. While “animal control” can sometimes be a phrase that turns people off, Michele and her team are here to assist pet owners in any way possible with the goal of helping community members keep their pets safe and healthy. Montclair Animal Control even offers a food pantry for distressed pet owners in need.
Straight From the Chicken’s Mouth
Local chicken owner, Florise, has always been interested in agriculture and is currently studying for her Masters in Sustainability Management at Columbia University. During the pandemic, she worked at a farm in Rhinebeck, NY where she raised meat birds, grew vegetables, and worked with some larger livestock. She said, besides the fact that they’re pets, she wanted to know the process of “producing” your own eggs at home which got her started in her chicken ownership journey years back.
Florise’s chickens have a large area outside her family home where they do more than just provide delicious, healthier, organic eggs. She said chickens also do good for the environment on a larger scale. Chickens peck the ground and eat bugs. Specific breeds like Guinea hens even eat ticks and some breeds help control the fly population. In addition, the pecking aerates the yard which encourages grass growth.
She said that the biggest obstacle around chicken ownership is protecting the flock from predators. The most common predators in Montclair are raccoons and hawks but also include possums, foxes, coyotes, and even owls. Making sure your chickens have ample space to run is important but it’s even more important you predator-proof the area. Florise’s flock is protected by a fence plus a full net covering the area. In addition, the coop must be closed with all the girls inside every night to keep them safe.
Another “predator” you must prepare for is snow and cold weather. Chickens need access to fresh water at all times and, you must find a solution to keep their water from freezing in cold weather. In addition, chickens do not go out in the snow. Florise’s chickens have an area behind their coop that’s covered so they can still stretch their legs in inclement weather.
Florise’s 11 chickens are happy, healthy, and quite popular with neighbors and friends, especially for their great eggs.
If you want to get your own chickens, the first step is to look into the time and commitment needed. In addition, make sure you read all of your town’s legislation around ownership, as noted above. While chickens live outside, they still require the same care and attention (if not more) than any other pet. Veterinary care, high-quality nutrition, proper enclosures and runs, and regular check-ins are just some of the things you will need to take care of on a daily basis while being a chicken owner.
You can test the waters before fully diving into chicken ownership by using a company that will rent you the entire chicken “set-up” and the chickens themselves. A couple of companies servicing New Jersey are Rent the Chicken and RentACoop.
Once you have the chickens, Brookdale Pet Center on Broad Street in Bloomfield is one of the only local pet shops that sells chicken feed. It also offers local delivery and has knowledgeable staff to keep your flock happy and healthy.
Chicken ownership is more than a post-pandemic hobby, it is a rewarding commitment for anyone dedicated to keeping a flock.