Feathers fly in Flint over backyard chickens

Jun 16, 2014

One of Flint’s leading urban farmers is being told she has to get rid of her chickens.

“You know we’ve become so distant from where our food comes from," says Roxanne Adair, operator of Flint River Farms.
“You know we’ve become so distant from where our food comes from," says Roxanne Adair, operator of Flint River Farms.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Roxanne Adair operates a commercial urban farm in Flint. She sells the produce from her two-acre farm at the local farmers market and to individual clients. She also keeps eight chickens in her home's backyard.   She’s been raising chickens in her backyard for the past few years.     

Adair says she eats many of the eggs herself and gives others away. She admits she will also sell another dozen or so a week.  

Last week, she was cited for a zoning violation and given 30 days to remove the chickens.

Adair says she’s surprised, with all of Flint’s other problems, that the city is devoting resources to forcing her to move her chickens.

"You know we’ve become so distant from where our food comes from. “That’s just abnormal … that’s not what happens here,” Adair says with an ironic tone in her voice. 

A Flint city spokesman says one of Adair’s neighbors contacted the city two weeks ago to complain about her chickens.  

“Along with being against city ordinance, harboring chickens in unsanitary conditions is a health issue as well as a quality-of-life issue,” says Jason Lorenz, Flint city spokesman.

“Along with being against city ordinance, harboring chickens in unsanitary conditions is a health issue as well as a quality of life issue,” says Jason Lorenz, Flint city spokesman.
“Along with being against city ordinance, harboring chickens in unsanitary conditions is a health issue as well as a quality of life issue,” says Jason Lorenz, Flint city spokesman.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Since 1968, it’s been against the law in Flint to keep chickens in a residential neighborhood.

In recent years, dozens of Michigan cities have updated local ordinances to allow people to raise chickens in backyard coops.

But that aspect of the "urban farming" movement is facing a new challenge. This spring, state officials approved new guidelines calling for tighter restrictions on chickens and other livestock in urban environments.  

Meanwhile, Roxanne Adair hopes to persuade Flint city leaders to let her keep her chickens.  

Adair says she’s far from the only Flint resident enjoying very fresh eggs every morning.

“I’m not going to name any names but I could probably count at least 200 illegal chickens that I know of in the city limits,” says Adair.
“I’m not going to name any names but I could probably count at least 200 illegal chickens that I know of in the city limits,” says Adair.
Credit Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

“I’m not going to name any names but I could probably count at least 200 illegal chickens that I know of in the city limits,” says Adair.