These are not America’s Most Wanted criminals; in fact, the city of Philadelphia rarely even issues a ticket to one of these lawbreakers.
Raising backyard chickens ranks up there with jaywalking.
Nonetheless, chicken owners in Northwest Philadelphia are moving cautiously as they start a support group.
At the second meeting of the Philadelphia Backyard Chicken (PBC) committee members agreed to create a Facebook page and come together to swap chicken stories.
While most of the members would like to see Philadelphia legalize their backyard chickens, there are concerns about whether raising this issue could lead to more tickets being issued.
“I think about the legality of it and wonder if it’s something we should do something about,” said Dave, an attendee at the PBC meeting on Sunday. “Drawing attention to it might bring more problems to us.”
Weaver’s Way general manager Glenn Bergman said the co-op will stand by chicken owners if the number of tickets issued does increase, as some fear.
“If somebody gets fined, if those numbers start moving up, we’ll form a legal committee and start a protest,” said Weaver’s Way general manager Glenn Bergman.
And Bergman also said the committee has received support from Seventh District Councilwoman Maria D. Quinones-Sanchez to adopt new ordinance.
Quinones-Sanchez, who is the chairperson for the Committee of Licenses and Inspections, said she is open to looking into the matter and deciding whether it fits in with other green initiatives she supports.
“As we talk about our vacant land, it’s something we will address head-on and look at the policies and procedures that we’d want,” she said, adding that illegal ownership of the birds is common in her neck of the woods. “I do currently have neighbors that that have chickens in their backyard.”
Pennsylvania SPCA spokesperson Wendy Marano said lots of chickens are flapping around Philadelphia because the city only responds after a complaint is made.
“Unless a neighbor is coming forward to complain about it, nothing is done about it,” she said.
Marano said the process goes like this: animal control will respond to complaints and issue a warning. After a chicken owner fails to comply with the ordinance after five-to-seven days, they are issued a $25 ticket. Animal control will then continue to check back each week. Once three tickets are issued, the city can take a chicken owner to court.
But Marano said it’s a myth that the city will not confiscate or destroy chickens.
“Chickens are viewed as property unless they’re abused, and you can’t just confiscate them,” she said. “You have to go through the legal procedure.”
For now, the chicken committee in Mt. Airy plans to put the issue of “legalization” on the back burner.