All the DelVecchios wanted to do was to reduce their carbon footprint. They never knew they were breaking the law. It wasn't until they received a summons in the mail from the Board of Health that they learned it is illegal to keep hens in New Milford.
“We were surprised to find out that a neighbor complained because we’re friendly with all of our neighbors and no one came to talk to us about it. Also, the neighborhood pigeons make more noise than our hens,” said Brooke DelVecchio.
Upon doing their own research they discovered that borough ordinance BH:5-1.1 states keeping poultry is prohibited and reads, "No poultry shall be kept or permitted to be kept in the Borough." (1968 Code §74-12)
However, it gets confusing because following that is borough ordinance BH:5-1.4 that states that there is a slaughtering permit for poultry and small animals and reads, "No person shall engage in the business of slaughtering, killing or dressing poultry or small animals in the Borough without obtaining a permit from the Board for that purpose, which permit shall expire on December 31." (1968 Code §74-15)
“The Board of Health inspector couldn’t have been nicer,” Jeff DelVecchio said. He reported that she gave him an extension to give him time to figure out what to do--either try to have the ordinance amended or find a home for the hens.
“We only have hens, no roosters, so there’s no crowing at dawn,” Brooke said. “They’re really very quiet.”
So quiet that when they spoke to their neighbors after they received the summons the neighbors were unaware that they had hens on their property.
The Delvechhios, a couple with three young boys, said their decision to raise hens is in line with their commitment to being a “green” family.
“When I installed the solar panels, it lit an environmental fire in me,” Jeff DelVechhio said, “and I began to look at other areas of our life to see where else we could make smart changes.”
It wasn’t enough that Jeff bought a Prius--he installed the plug-in so that the car operates entirely on electricity provided by his solar panels.
They drink organic milk, use only organic diapers, have two compost bins, and recycle everything that can be recycled. Also, rather than erecting a fence to enclose their backyard, they planted bamboo to create a natural border.
The Delvecchios want to live off their land as much as they can and for that reason they planted a beautiful vegetable garden that provided them with an abundance of fresh vegetables all summer long.
Earlier in the year they made the decision to raise six hens so that their famiy can eat freshly laid organic eggs. Jeff researched every kind of hen before choosing the six that he now has. He also constructed an enclosed chicken coop in the backyard.
Jeff and his family are hoping there’s a way that the ordinance can be amended to allow them to keep the hens.
“Hens are completely trainable. They’re just starting to answer to their names and let us hold them,” Brooke said. “The kids really love them.”
Jeff recently created a Facebook page called New Milford Residents for Sustainability and encourages all residents, and any one who is interested in learning more about sustainability or who wants to share their experience of living green, to join.