Michigan Law Change to Affect Backyard Chickens

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    All across America, backyard chicken coops have been popping up left and right. People have chosen to raise their own chickens, be it for eggs, meat, or both due to concerns about the chemicals used in mass produced eggs and meat. A lot of these backyard chicken dreams come to be a reality on small acreage. While chickens can be managed on small parcels of land, objecting neighbors have frequently voiced unfavorable opinions about these practices. City Councils have raised the issue and in some cases, backyard chickening was forbidden due to zoning and other regulations, both old and newly enacted.

    In the state of Michigan, for example, small farms as well as hobby farms are facing a new law change that will affect how they are classified. Previously, hobby farms were offered protection under Michigan\'s Right to Farm Act as long as they were in compliance with standards set forth by Michigan\'s Generally Acceptable Agricultural Practices (GAAMPs). The reason this program was put into place initially was to keep changes in zoning and such from forcing commercial agriculture operations out of areas in which they were established. The Generally Acceptable Agricultural Practices are reviewed and updated annually, with this year\'s update containing some wording that will forever change the identification of hobby farms.

    In the past, a section of the Generally Acceptable Agricultural Practices was of no concern to most small/hobby farms, but that is on the verge of change. Previous classifications of \"Livestock Production Facilities\" required the presence of 50 or more animals, but under the new provisions having as little as one single animal can change the classification of hobby farms and deem them to be Livestock Production Facilities. Under this change, \"Site Selection\" rules will now apply to those farms, and Site Selection regulates where you can have a Livestock Production Facility. Specifically, under the new rules, locations classified as \"Category 4 Sites\" will be prohibited from acting as Livestock Production Facilities.

    This would not be so bad except that Category 4 Sites are zoned residential.


    These tweaks in the law take someone who raises chickens in their residentially zoned backyard for their own sustenance and turns them, in the eyes of the law, into a production facility whose location can now be regulated. Specifically, where you engage in that livestock production can be regulated in that you can no longer do it in your backyard, since having as few as one single animal changes your status from hobbyist to producer in the eyes of the law.

    If you live in Michigan and are unhappy with these proposed changes, you have until January 22, 2014 to voice your opinion. That date is right around the corner, so there is literally no time to waste. Public comments will be heard, and will hopefully result in blocking these changes. Even if you do not live in Michigan and are unaffected by these law revisions, remember that can change at any time. As laws evolve and are updated, any one of us can face a tidal wave of change that may affect us greatly. A precedent set in one place can be all it takes to encourage other areas to follow suit, forever changing all of our lives one backyard at a time.

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