Nobody here but us chickens — and predators

            Dear Councilwoman Cook and Mayor Harycki,

I am approaching my 20th year as a Stillwater citizen of Ward 2. I was unable to attend your last council meetings regarding the chicken debate because of required travels for work.

Until recently my family has lived next to chickens (and occasionally a duck) over the past two years. My wife was raised on a May Township farm and still works on this farm. I am a geologist that frequents farms during the course of my business, and have many farmers as friends and family members.

My wife and I both fully realize all the wonderful benefits of owning chickens, most notably insect control. We thought letting our neighbors own chickens was worth a try, and so we didn’t initially complain about their chickens. They fenced off their yard between both our properties and their other neighboring properties to prevent predators from reaching their chickens. This worked great from their perspective.

I heard the pro-chicken argument that predators already exist in town, as do non-predators such as deer, squirrels, etc. This is completely true, but our personal truth was witnessing a dramatic increase in predators after the chickens arrived. There was literally a line of predators in our yard and driveway trying to get into chicken yard through the fencing (no exaggeration on the “line-up” of raccoons).

So, while the chicken yard remained free of predators, we neighbors paid the price with the visits by predators. The line-up at different times included families of raccoons, foxes, opossums, and feral or domestic dogs and cats. I fully expect to start seeing coyotes if the chickens return with your passing of this pro-chicken ordinance.

Mayor Harycki, I know that newspapers are sometimes inaccurate in their reporting, but if you did state to Mary Divine (Pioneer Press) that you had heard “no complaints about chickens,” then you and your team have not researched your facts. Because we have been complaining.

We asked that the chickens be removed from our neighbor’s yard. The Stillwater Police have checked on these neighbors several times to verify the chickens’ removal. After the chickens left, we went back to a normal stray predator sighting or two per month; not like before when they showed up every night and often times in masses trying to get to the neighbor’s chickens. What I have stated above are facts that my wife and I will attest to.

My family enjoys spending evenings in our yard without the yard lights on. We often have our grandchildren over to play in our yard. I can’t fence my yard off without creating a driveway gate that would impact city sidewalks. Besides, fencing my yard and driveway would look out of historical character with the house and yard.

Now the questions are: What are we to do with the line-up of predators, and the associated excrement that they leave near the fence between our yards? What rights do I have to remove or dispatch these predators in the city to protect my family’s health and property? Who will pay for the predators’ removal to make my yard safe if I’m not allowed to dispatch them myself? What liability does the city hold if a child gets bit or scratched from one of these more frequent predators, when predators admittedly already exist in the city?

Why did the “no-chicken” ordinance exist in the first place? Did anyone perform research on any of these questions for answers before making what appears to be an emotional decision? I am not sure that the average Stillwater citizen even knows that this debate exists or what the consequences of going pro-chicken will truly be.

I am not going to get into a “he-said, she-said” argument with anyone. I am not going to address the emotional pro- and anti-chicken website blogs. My time is more precious, and so is the welfare of my family and household property. I need to know what I can do to protect both my family and property. You may respond directly through this email address or call me on my cell (612-616-7408) or at my home (651-430-9617).

Curtis Hudak is a Stillwater resident. His letter was sent to the mayor and city council members.