Greenfield - Susan Tubic who has served in the Army reserves and the Air Force reserves for 17 years, is a cheerleading coach at Whitnall Middle School and is heavily involved in the Boy Scouts of America wonders why she isn't allowed to raise chickens, if she does it responsibly.
The Greenfield Board of Health last week told her that she has 30 days to get rid of the eight chickens who have lived on her acre of rural Greenfield for two years. The city doesn't allow chickens, she was told. Six of the chickens are her's. The other two belong to a neighbor.
The board also told a nearby family they would have to get rid of their four chickens.
"At the board meeting, my daughter (7) was crying," said Michael Ritt. He, his wife and four children also live on about an acre of land and have had chickens for about a year and a half.
Tubic said she is considering appealing to her alderman and to the Greenfield Common Council. She and her partner William Desarden are raising chickens mainly because of post traumatic stress disorder the 25-year Air Force veteran suffered from duty in Afghanistan.
The gentle clucking of the chickens is soothing, and the eggs are as much as two months fresher than eggs in grocery stores, Tubic said.
Desarden said his condition has improved since the chickens landed. He sleeps better and takes less medicine because of the birds' calming effect, Desarden said.
"It's because of the atmosphere, they're so calm," he said.
Even though a few Wisconsin cities including Milwaukee, Wauwatosa, Madison, Green Bay, Fond du Lac, New Berlin, Muskego, Oshkosh and La Crosse allow chickens, the Greenfield Board of Health didn't want to change the citywide ban, mainly because of worries about attracting predators.
"Live chickens will attract more coyotes and people might start to lose house pets," said Leon Saryan, a health board member. "We've already had a coyote kill an alderman's dog."
Concerns about increasing the already growing coyote problem and of potentially adding a rat problem from the rodents getting at chicken feed were the main underpinnings of the board's decision to keep the ban. Other issues were waste and chicken butchering.
Not only did the board keep the ban, but it recommended closing a loophole that allows chickens to be raised for educational purposes or for events such as circuses. That recommendation will go to the council for a vote.
The two families said they understood the concerns, but none apply in their cases, they said.
"Coyotes have been here in throngs before we ever got chickens," Tubic said.
There is a bobcat and a family of hawks nearby, so the chickens are locked up in the coop every night, she said. Also, the feed is in a box inside the coop and falls into a dish that the chickens can get at, she said.
Similarly, Ritt said, "We have no rodents."
The chickens are locked up at night because he knows predators are around.
"I know coyotes live in the woods. And raccoons were there before but they eat the vegetables in the garden," he said. "I kind of expected a hawk to get one of them," Ritt said of the chickens.
Smell is not an issue for neighbors or for the chickens, he said. He cleans the chicken coop and acknowledges "it smells a little." But by far the worst smell is the grass that inadvertently gets left in the lawnmower hamper," he said.
Like Tubic, he washes the eggs to eliminate any chance of salmonella and gives extras to neighbors and co-workers.
His neighbors are pleased with the chickens, especially the retired teacher who cares for them when the family is away, he said.
"He loves them," Ritt said.
He said he was disappointed in the board of health meeting where the only officials giving information to the board were against chickens.
"The cards were definitely stacked," he said.
Surprised at ban
Both said they didn't realize Greenfield doesn't allow chickens.
Tubic said she spoke with a Greenfield woman who has had chickens since World War II. She also searched online for a requirement for a license and found none, she said.
"I feel bad that I did something illegal," she said. But with food being adulterated and with Desarden's health issue, "I don't feel bad."
She said she understands some people would be bad chicken owners and that there are situations where chickens would not fit in. However, Tubic said, it seems that people should have the freedom to do what they want with reasonable restrictions.
Communities that allow chickens have rules about how far coops must be from property lines and how big coops can be.
Bans for all
"I'm a productive citizen, I've never been arrested, I pay my taxes, I don't do drugs, I just want some fresh eggs," Tubic said.
Ritt said he mistakenly thought he was looking at rules for Milwaukee County when he actually had called up the city of Milwaukee that allows chickens.
"I misread it," he said, However, he still doesn't understand.
"I thought if Milwaukee has it, that's as urban as it gets," he said.
Ritt said he wanted to get chickens for his children partly to teach them to care for small animals. He also remembers how fun it was when his elementary school raised chickens. His daughters are having a wonderful time with the chickens. One of them lets the chickens perch on her arm as she walks through the yard, he said.
It will be a sad day when the chickens have to go, if they have to go, Ritt said. Horn Brothers of Muskego, where he buys the chicken feed has said that it can take the chickens in, if needed, he said.
Similarly, Tubic said she plans to contact the Gingerbread House in Muskego that already has some chickens.