Clark chickens may have to fly the coop. At Monday's meeting, councilmembers discussed whether or not to prohibit chickens and other farm animals in the township.
Clark Health Officer Nancy Raymond said last year she was notified that a Clark resident and Schieferstein Farm were interested in getting chickens and felt that the town needed to put forth an ordinance regarding chickens.
Raymond also told council that there are currently two Clark residents who have six chickens each that she is aware of. Councilman Brian Toal chimed in and said that two years ago there were at least eight residents with chickens and a resident on Ivy Street who bred homing pigeons.
Raymond reached out to other towns in Union County and of the nine that responded, five had ordinances prohibiting chickens. Raymond said that Cranford allows chickens, but has fines in place to govern how they are managed. Raymond also said the most common restriction in towns that allowed chickens was that they did not allow roosters.
Councilman Pat O'Connor asked Raymond if she knew of any health concerns regarding raising chickens.
"No, as long as they're handled correctly and clean, and if they're going to slaughter them they don't do it at home," answered Raymond. "But if they don't keep the coop clean they can attract rats and other wildlife."
When asked her preference, Raymond said she would prefer that chickens were prohibited.
Councilman Richard Kazanowski asked Raymond if there was any health reason (besides wanting farm fresh produce) that would make someone want to raise chickens. Raymond said there was not.
The council also discussed whether there were ordinances regarding other farm animals. The consensus was that Township Attorney Joseph Triarsi would check current laws and zoning regulations and then draft an ordinance prohibiting chickens and other livestock. The council did not decide whether residents who currently have chickens would be exempt from the ordinance.
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Resident Doug Ritter spoke up during the public comments section of the meeting and said when he was growing up in Fanwood his brother built an incubator to hatch chicks.
"I don't think you should try to encourage or discourage a young child trying to educate themselves with an item like this," said Ritter. "I think it certainly should be limited, but perhaps allowing chickens for a certain period of time might be decent idea."