Black Jack Rethinking Urban Chicken Ban

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BLACK JACK, MO (KTVI) – A woman took a live chicken into a city council meeting during a debate over back yard chickens in the city of Black Jack in North St. Louis County, Tuesday night.

She was granted permission to bring the chicken, prior to the meeting.  

More than a dozen chicken supporters also wore chicken stickers.  

Dorene Olson, of West County, brought her prized hen, Cuckoo,  with her, as she addressed the mayor and city council.   

Olson was there in support of fellow back yard chicken owners Black Jack.
She also brought a stack of books on raising back yard chickens, all available at most popular bookstores;  a sign, she said, of the explosion in the growth of people raising the chickens as a hobby, as well as a food source.

'I just wanted to let you know the extensive movement of people who are keeping chickens.  I live in a suburb in West County,' Olson said.  'There are 5 people on my street alone that have chickens, including one of our trustees.'

Cuckoo was quiet and well behaved throughout the meeting.

'They`re good chicken citizens.  I think Black Jack chickens are good citizens, too,' Olson said.

 This is all started after long-time Black Jack resident, Guy Niere, a retired Ford worker received a 'notice to comply' letter from the city.  It initially gave him until July 2nd to get rid of his close to 40, mostly rare-breed chickens.  

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He raises them for eggs, meat, and also to help perpetuate the species.  

He said his family, among the founding fathers of Black Jack, had been raising chickens in the area since the 1870`s.  

He teaches a class on the subject for St. Louis Community College and has helped other municipalities in St. Louis County pass chicken friendly ordinances.

He never knew they violated the city code in Black Jack.  In 12 years, there had been zero complaints; almost no one knew he them.  

But last month, a newspaper article featured him and his chickens.  A short time later, , he got the letter.   

Since a Fox 2 report earlier this month, city leaders pushed back that deadline to comply.

Tuesday night, Niere`s supporters urged the council to go even further.   

'One ... urge the council to rescind his notice to comply; number 2, not to create a chicken solution when there`s no chicken problem,' said Black Jack resident, Merna Rikard.  

'Rright now, we feel that it is in the ordinance that you have to not have chickens,' said Mayor Norman McCourt.  'Council can change that.  That`s what we`re trying to talk about.'  

He said he would be not be doing his job as mayor if he ignored the municipal code.  

He said the city could simply keep extending the deadline for compliance while the council worked at changing the city code to allow back yard chickens.

That should happen within the next month or two.  

 'I think the more they understand about how benign they are and how important it is for people to be able to raise their own food and be more sustainable and the local food movement is going crazy across the country,' Niere said.  'You`re here and there`s no smell anywhere you go.  Walk into all the coops and you don`t smell anything.'

Niere said studies showed eggs from back yard chickens were much better for people;  - having lower cholesterol,  more Omega 3`s, and a lot more Vitamins A, E, & D.  He said most store bought eggs had no Vitamin D.  

He also said the city invited him to set up a stand and educate people about chickens at the upcoming summer festival.

Indeed Black Jack leaders seemed to be bending under the pressure of the chicken lobby.

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