Hersey welcomes resident chickens to roost

HERSEY — No one in Hersey expects rock star Jimmy Buffet to show up any day soon.

But who knows?

The Osceola County village, once the county seat, is taking steps that could make Buffet and his legions of fanatic followers feel a little bit at home.

The local council recently amended the municipal animal ordinance to allow for the keeping of chickens within village limits.

That’s good.

In discussing Key West, home to Jimmy Buffet and many others - from Hemingway to Calvin Klein - the Encyclopedia Britannia notes:

“ ... the legion of colourful chickens that stroll the streets, camp out in back yards, and loll about in restaurants and taverns. Some 2,000 to 3,000 of these feral chickens inhabit Key West and are perhaps more emblematic of the island than Jimmy Buffet, wild nightly parties, or the residents’ notorious live-and-let-live attitude.

“Efforts to control the chicken population have met with varying success. An official chicken catcher, hired by the city back in 2004, was stymied in his efforts by chicken lovers who upset his traps.”

But ...Hersey folks don’t expect trouble - with an official chicken catcher waiting in the wings.

The new village ordinance reads:

“This action will allow the keeping of up to four (4) laying hens. The keeping of roosters is forbidden and will be considered a violation of this ordinance.

“Fowl must be kept confined in a suitable cage not less than 50 feet from property lines.

“No person shall allow any fowl to roam free in the Village limits of Hersey. Any authorized officer of the Village shall have the right to seize, and impound any fowl at large and if unable to locate the owner, shall have the right to dispose of such fowl in a humane way.”

Dispose???

More on that later.

Village president John Calabrese insists there is no “problem” behind the village’s recent action.

“Look, the village of Hersey has zoning regulations - including a rule stating there can be no farm animals kept within the village limits,” Calabrese pointed out.

“We’ve had, however, a couple requests from folks who want to keep a few laying hens to supply them with fresh eggs.

“All over the country, communities are allowing the keeping of laying hens within city limits - including in Ann Arbor and other municipalities in Michigan.

“We simply amended our animal control ordinance to allow for the keeping of up to four laying hens.

“It’s all about eggs actually - not about chickens.”

The chickens might be a bit lonely. As noted, no roosters are allowed.

“A chicken doesn’t need a rooster to lay eggs,” said Calabrese. “I don’t want to be hearing the dang things at four in the morning!”

So, chickens now can roost in Hersey — in appropriate digs.

But if they get out and start strutting their stuff around the village “ ...Any authorized officer of the Village shall have the right to seize, and impound any fowl at large and if unable to locate the owner, shall have the right to dispose of such fowl in a humane way.”

Who is “Any authorized officer of the village ...”? And what is “dispose”?

“That would be me or a council member,” said Calabrese with a smile. “And I have the best recipe for Chicken Cacciatore.

“It’s just language,” he added more seriously.

“It’s all about allowing people to have a few chickens supplying them with fresh, healthy eggs.”

To date, there are actually no chickens in residence in Hersey.

Calabrese says he knows of two residents who have expressed an interest in bringing a few laying hens into the village, but he doesn’t expect a surge in the construction of chicken coops.

“I actually don’t know if anyone will keep chickens,” he said. “But if someone does create the proper pen and does keep the chickens in a clean and humane way, they’ll be able to enjoy fresh eggs in the morning.”