BLACKJACK, MO (KTVI) - The issue of urban chicken raising is coming to a head in north St. Louis County. A man with an amazing back yard chicken set up may have to take on city hall to keep it. He’s received an urban chicken ultimatum from city leaders in Blackjack.
Long-time Blackjack resident, Guy Niere, a retired Ford worker who’s also worked in the poultry industry, received a “notice to comply” letter from the City of Blackjack. It informed him that his back yard chicken raising operation violated section 5-3 of the municipal code which prohibits poultry farming at residences.
Niere said he had until July 2 to get rid of his close to 40 chickens. The problem was, he was not operating a poultry farm, which he said typically house 40,000 to 100,000 chickens these days.
The more people found out about what was really going on in his back yard, the more they seemed to think it was something worth keeping.
“It would be a travesty. It would be shame,” Niere said of the prospect of giving up his collection of mostly rare-breed chickens.
He said his family had been raising chickens in the area before Blackjack was even Blackjack.
“We had them since the 1870’s,” he said.
His coops were clean with no foul odor.
Aside from occasional hen clucking and rooster crowing there wasn’t much noise.
“They’ve been here for 12 years. My closest neighbor didn’t know I had them until I told her. I said, ‘do the roosters bother you?’ She said, ‘I didn’t know you had chickens.’”
But after an article featured him and his chickens in a newspaper in May, he got that letter saying the chickens had to go.
“Next inspection was going to be July 2nd and I had to have my chickens gone by the next inspection,” Niere said.
He raises the chickens for eggs and meat but also to help perpetuate rare breeds; including
Penedesencas, which were near extinction in Spain a couple of decades ago.
He said he taught classes on raising back yard chickens at St. Louis Community Colleges and helped lead a group of 450 people in the St. Louis area now raising back yard chickens; he’d help get back yard chicken raising legalized in places like Chesterfield and Richmond Heights.
Along with his expansive vegetable garden, the chickens make up an all natural “sustainable living cycle”; all in his back yard.
“The chickens are a vital part of that, because their manure goes into the compost pile, that feeds the gardens...they eat all the insects out of there. I don’t need chemical fertilizers. I don’t need pesticides. And I get the eggs in return...this is a forward thinking thing. This is part of the local food movement. This is part of sustainable living,” Niere said.
He added that there were least 5 other people raising back yard chickens in Blackjack.
As in Niere's case, that was news to the Mayor Norman McCourt.
When asked if they’d all have to get rid of all of their chickens, McCourt said, “I don’t think it’ll come to that.”
He said he hoped the city council would "hatch" a solution , perhaps by their next meeting, Tuesday, June 19th.
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