Ever since residents voted to consolidate Princeton Borough and Township in 2012, the new, merged municipality has worked to harmonize ordinances and policies that differed between the two former Princetons. This year, they finally got to the chickens.
The Princeton Environmental Commission (PEC) has passed a resolution supporting backyard poultry and encouraging the adoption of a formal ordinance on the matter.
To raise awareness the PEC, in collaboration with the Princeton Public Library, is holding an information session on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 10:30 a.m. at the library. Chickens will be present, along with a panel of speakers.
“The zoning ordinances of the former Princeton Township address commercial farming; however they do not define the practice of keeping backyard poultry,” notes PEC member Karen Zemble. “In addition, the zoning ordinances of the former Princeton Borough address domestic animals; however they do not define the practice of keeping backyard poultry.”
Benefits of backyard chickens cited in the PEC resolution include access to fresh, local eggs that do not have to be transported from factory farms; a reduction in household food waste because hens will eat it; and natural pest control.
While many residents already own backyard chickens, an ordinance would allow the municipality to regulate flock sizes and the placement of coops, and track any outbreaks of poultry-based diseases. It could also specify if roosters, whose calls are louder than those of hens, are permitted.
The October 5 talk, which will be moderated by PEC chair Sophie Glovier, will include multiple residents who currently own chickens as well as Karla Cook, co-founder of Princeton Studies Food, who will speak about sustainable management of food and food waste — and how she gives her backyard hens manicures — and Jim Kinsel, manager of Honeybrook Organic Farm in Hopewell.
Also speaking will be Gwenne Baile, founder of Camden County Chickens and owner of therapy hens. Baile, a retired nurse, was until last year the owner of Rosebud, a certified therapy hen so well known in the South Jersey area that her death in April 2018, prompted an obituary in the Courier Post. The obituary included tributes from administrators at nursing homes and programs that work with autistic children, lauding the hen’s soothing effect on the humans she interacted with.
The next step for the PEC is drafting an ordinance. A task force consisting of Zemble, Councilwoman Eve Niedergang, health control officer Jeffrey Grosser, and animal control officer James Ferry plans to present a draft to the public at the PEC meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 23.