Thursday, March 20, 2008

update: Ann Arbor and urban chickens

One of the reasons I love blogging about urban chickens is the great folks I get to meet in the comments, and yesterday's post, inspired by a news story in the Ann Arbor News made for a great introduction to Peter Thomason. Peter points out what I'd read in the AAN was only part of the story (am I surprised? not really).

And, instead of letting the jewel of a resource he shared be hidden in the comments, I think it's worthy to bring it out here in the sunshine for all to enjoy.
Take a look at to see what's really happening in the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area with urban chic. Judy M actually left quite a bit out of her report. My other blog has a response to her article.
So, I naturally followed the links and am truly impressed with how Peter's been able to leverage the existing Michigan Right to Farm Act to keep his urban chickens on his "micro eco-farm." Here's how he's worked the system:
The Michigan Right to Farm Act of 1981 is little known among city dwellers because it doesn’t impact us much. That is, unless you happen to live on the outskirts of a town that has been developed through the acquisition of nearby farms. Where farms are still operational and close enough to subdivisions to be smelled or heard, those agricultural activities are protected, and rightly so because we need them, as long as they follow GAAMPS – an acronym for Generally Accepted Agricultural Management Practices. We need local farms, especially small family owned farms, for a whole variety of reasons which cannot just be described in economic terms.

Using the law to support having chickens in our backyard did not occur to me until I was being interviewed by Michigan Radio several months later and the interviewer suggested I look into the case of a suburban Michigan woman who had successfully used it in defense of her flock of goats. It is a surprisingly strong law, and, to my knowledge, all attempts to modify it have fallen flat. Two recent Michigan Court of Appeals rulings - one involved a riding stable and the other a nursery - have upheld it to the extent that it trumps even local zoning requirements and ordinances. The catch for backyard chicken keepers – or urban micro farmers like us - is that the law appears to be designed to protect those engaged in agricultural activities for commercial purposes. We don’t have a problem with that because, as produce growers – we sell to a local food cooperative – we fit the IRS and the USDA description of farmers. We file a Schedule F with our Federal 1040 and we also follow GAAMPS. I can imagine that the protections would be extended to subsistence farmers as well.
Be sure to read Peter's rebuttal to Judy's article on his other blog. I'm happy to add his farm in the Urban Chicken blog roll to the right.


Peter & Rebecca Thomason said...


Did I tell you that we have 44 chickens, two pregnant goats, and 10 breeding rabbits on our 1/10th of an acre? Thanks for the nice introduction, I'm glad you enjoyed visiting our site and spreading the word. Just wish our web friends could visit us and really get a sense of our little farm. Today we mucked out the coop and the goat stall from the winter's deposits to get them ready for the 32 7 week old pullets we raised in the cellar to add to the 12 we got last year and to be ready for the kidding of our goats in a week or so. I'll try to post some new pictures over the weekend.

Katherine said...

Hi Thomas. I am a long time reader of your blog, and would like to interview you for a research paper I am writing for one of my graduate planning classes (it's a land use and zoning class). I am currently working on my master's in planning at the University of New Mexico, and am a strong supporter in urban farming. I can't find a way to email you from your blog, so I am posting this here. Please contact me at if you are interested in being interviewed. Thanks so much- and thanks for the great blog.

KT LaBadie

Katherine said...

Oh- the paper is on urban chicken ordinances...forgot to mention that.

kathi d said...

I have just finished assembling my very first flock of chicks. I have 7 one-week old pullets and 8 one-day old pullets (at least I am hoping they are all girls). I have been wanting chickens for years and I'm so excited to finally have them. I'm subjecting everyone who reads my blog to baby chick photos almost daily.


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