Monday, November 7, 2011

Communities welcome chickens

Anne Constable writes about how Santa Fe, New Mexico residents are dealing with chickens:

The Eldorado community still isn't completely sure about how it feels about sun-tracking solar collectors sprouting in the subdivision south of Santa Fe.

Now it faces another issue that could divide residents: backyard chickens and goats.

Some say that having a few hens and nannies is a way to live more sustainably; others argue that barnyard animals are smelly, spread disease and would draw more coyotes and rodents to their neighborhoods.

The subdivision's covenants are somewhat ambiguous on the subject.

The section pertaining to household pets states that "no animals, birds or poultry" are allowed, except for "recognized household pets" that may be kept for the "pleasure and use" of occupants.

That language clearly allows residents to have cats and dogs, as well as other inside critters like parakeets, guinea pigs, lizards and fish. But on the surface it would seem to rule out Rhode Island Reds and nubians.

But maybe not.

Some residents say the covenants could be interpreted to allow them because they are as much family pets as the dog and cat.

The board of the Eldorado Community Improvement Association (ECIA) has asked its Sustainability Planning and Education Committee to look into the matter and decide whether to recommend changes in the ECIA's guidelines to clearly permit such animals — and to decide under what conditions they would be permitted. The guidelines assist the board in interpreting the subdivision's covenants.

A working group of the committee, led by Eduardo Krasilovsky, is doing research into how other communities have dealt with the issue and will prepare a report for the committee presenting both sides of the issue, possibly by the end of the year.

"There is no easy answer to this," the ECIA's lawyer, John Hays, said.

In an informal opinion, he said the question hinges on whether hens and goats are generally "recognized household pets." He suggested that one way to address the issue would be to present it to the community. If the community's sense is that hens and goats are OK, then that would support Eldorado's "recognition" of them as household pets.

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