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Merrimack Valley

May 4, 2013

A chicken in every yard?

NORTH ANDOVER — The biggest draw at the annual Town Meeting on May 21 will probably be ... chickens.

Chickens are legal in North Andover, but current regulations are very restrictive. Only residents with 3 acres or more can keep chickens on their property and they are only allowed one chicken per acre.

Article 28, if it wins at least two-thirds approval, would allow residents to have as many as six hens, regardless of the size of their lots. Those owning 3 acres or more would be permitted to have three instead of just one hen per acre.

Roosters would not be allowed. Most North Andoverites probably don’t want to be awakened by the birds’ crowing.

Those who keep hens on their property would have to house them in a coop providing at least 4 square feet per bird.

Hope and Thomas Ralph, of 1483 Salem St., and their neighbors, Hillary and Christopher Stasonis, of 1514 Salem St., are leading the fight to expand chickendom in North Andover. They have been busy distributing signs that proclaim, “Say yes to chickens.”

Hillary Stasonis and Thomas Ralph, an attorney, drafted the proposed bylaw. Ralph said they researched other bylaws permitting chickens and he’s confident it will pass muster with any legal test.

Hope Ralph said they were inspired to allow more residents to have backyard hens because they want to “be more self-sustaining.” If some people fear that chickens will disturb them with all their clucking, their worry is unfounded, she said.

At least one study has shown that dogs are noisier than chickens, she said. She also noted that several nearby communities, including Boxford, Ipswich, Reading and Danvers, have voted to permit residents to keep chickens in their yards.

She pointed out that North Andover has an extensive agricultural heritage. She was brought up in Michigan, where her family raised sheep.

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