What’s all the clucking about
Park River woman hoping to keep pet chickens
PARK RIVER – Buttercup, Sweet Pea, Violet and Daisy. Those are some of Teresa Gire’s favorite flowers, but for the Park River woman, they are also the names of the four chickens she’s been raising for the past three years in her backyard.
On the evening of Nov. 13, near 10 p.m., Gire was informed by two Walsh County deputies that came to her front door that the birds she’s lovingly cared for were in violation of a city ordinance regarding raising livestock within the city limits.
Gire was told that she would have to get rid of the birds that have become pets and are like part of the family.
Gire started raising chickens about three years ago, shortly after the death of her sister Marsha.
As a girl who grew up on a farm west of Park River, Gire said it was her and her sister’s chore to tend for the chickens. Her sister lived on a farm, raised chickens her whole life.
Raising her hens from baby chicks, or pullets as they’re called, gave Gire a sense of peace and helped her to remember the time when her family was intact. Gire and her brother Jonathon are the only two left out of the original family of six.
“When I think about it, I don’t understand it, but I think God gave me those chickens to find some solace, some peace,” she said. “I think it brings me back to a day when I had my family when I was younger.”
Gire’s mother Eleanor, passed away in the past month. Gire said she remembers what her mother told her when she first got her chickens.
“She told me, ‘you need those chickens,’” she said. “She knew what they meant to me. It brought me comfort.”
One of the chickens, is named Violet, her mother’s middle name.
Gire currently has four hens, two of them are Rhode Island Reds, the other two are Buff Orpingtons.
Gire said they used to lay about four eggs a day, but as the hens have gotten older, they don’t lay eggs quite so often.
They are kept in a coop in Gire’s backyard that measures about 4 by 10 feet. Gire keeps their feed in a metal container to keep mice away and she’s very conscientious about disposing of the bird’s waste, so there is no smell.
Gire said her grandchildren sometimes help with the care of her birds.
“They feed the chickens and they pick the eggs,” she said. “I think it’s good for kids to learn those things, even though they’re city kids. It’s good for them to have something like that and know where eggs come from.”
Gire said her granddaughter Zayah, who’s helped raise the chickens since she they were chicks, was planning to and use the chickens as her 4-H project this year.
“If I have to get rid of them, it won’t happen,” she said.
Gire said she’d never had a complaint about her chickens until she was visited by the deputies Nov. 13.
She said she was unaware of the ordinance when she first got the baby chicks and has never tried to hide the birds from anyone.
A special meeting of the Park River City Council was held on Nov. 20 to address the issue.
At that time the council voted 3-2 to uphold the ordinance which prohibits the raising of livestock in the city. The ordinance mentions large animals like horses, mules, cattle and goats. It also mentions fowl including geese, ducks, turkeys and peacocks among other animals.
Councilmen Bob Lundquist, Karl Blake and Mike Lorton voted to uphold the ordinance. Councilmen Arvid Knutson and Keith Anderson voted no. One councilman, Dwight Byron was absent.
The Park River City Council is scheduled to revisit the issue when it meets on Monday, Dec. 9.
Gire said she wasn’t able to be at the special meeting held earlier in November but plans to be at the meeting Dec. 9 to plead her case for keeping her chickens.
She has been busy gathering information to present to the council. She’s documented cities and towns in North Dakota like Fargo, Moorhead and Lisbon and Hazen which allow chickens in the city limits. She’s also gotten letters of support from professionals including a veterinarian.
Gire said she’s suggesting that the ordinance be changed to allow people to raise up to six chickens, as long as they are well cared for and kept in a secure enclosure.
Gire will be allowed to keep her chickens until that meeting, but if the council votes for a second time to uphold the ordinance she’ll have to give up her pets.
“They’re just chickens,” Gire said. “I’m just hoping we can discuss this and be able to find some common ground so everyone can be happy.”
The Park River City Council meeting is set for Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m., at the city office building conference room. The public is encouraged to attend.