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Chicken owners in Babylon say town rules too strict

Babylon residents who keep chickens in their yards and received notices they are in violation of the town code are asking officials to change the law to allow chickens to be raised in smaller yards. The town code requires a 100-foot distance between chickens and any house (Credit: Newsday / Rachel O'Brien)

A town ordinance is ruffling feathers in Babylon and a group of chicken lovers has mobilized to ask the town to change the law that prohibits fowl except in large backyards.

Karin Capellan has kept her 15 chickens, or her “ladies,” as she calls them, in her West Babylon backyard for about five years, collecting the fresh eggs daily and sharing them with neighbors.

Capellan, a flight attendant, arrived home from a recent overseas flight to a town notice on her door, ordering her to remove the chickens from her yard.

The town code requires a 100-foot distance between chickens and any house, something that’s impossible to do in small-to-medium sized backyards.

She said her chickens are “overly taken care of” and she prevents odors by planting lemon grass and ensures there’s no standing water. She adopted Roger the rooster a year ago, but he has a no-crow collar that stifles the otherwise loud crow.

Capellan said no neighbors have complained to her about the poultry, and they embrace the chickens as a part of Capellan’s life.

“I’m very vocal about my chickens — they’re my ladies!” she said. “Everyone who knows me knows I’m the chicken lady.”

Capellan started a petition on Change.org to ask the town to amend the code “to something more reasonable but still with some strict enforcement.” The petition has more than 1,000 signatures after being up a few weeks, and she plans to present it at the June 12 town board meeting.

Town Supervisor Rich Schaffer said, "We are looking forward to hearing what residents say and will be guided by their input."

Babylon Town’s 100-foot policy is strict compared with other towns.

Other Suffolk County towns require 10-, 25- or 50-foot setbacks from property lines. Some require food to be stored properly and the area to be cleaned regularly. Others prohibit roosters or limit the number of birds, such as six in Brookhaven and 15 in Islip.

Robert Frampton keeps six chickens in his West Babylon backyard and received a violation notice after someone complained.

He doesn’t have a rooster, so there’s no noise, he said, and his chicken setup is “pro” -- a large run, high quality feed, fresh water, side structure in the coop to lift and grab the eggs, he said.

He said he gives eggs to neighbors, and neighbors take care of the chickens when he’s away on vacation.

“It’s a good, positive bartering system that goes on,” he said.

After getting the notice, Frampton presented to the town board signed letters from neighbors stating they are OK with the chickens. He recently created a Facebook group for his cause: Babylon Backyard Chicken Alliance.

Both Capellan and Frampton said they were not aware of the 100-foot rule.

Frampton is an environmental science teacher at Southside High School in Rockville Centre and said he uses his chickens to teach his students about sustainability.

“Backyard chickens now is a movement and it should be,” he said. “The more we can grow our own food, the better it is for the environment.”

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