Niagara County 6-year-old & family fight to keep chickens

Niagara County

WHEATFIELD, N.Y. (WIVB) – A Niagara County family is putting up a fight to keep their chickens.

The Holzles say they are teaching their kids important lessons by taking care of chickens, but Wheatfield’s zoning board says having them goes against a town ordinance.

“We’re pretty much just trying to teach Mason where eggs and where their food comes from, and it doesn’t just come from the store, as well as the responsibility of cleaning them, watering them,” Kim Holzle said.

Holzle says the family enjoys keeping chickens, especially her son, Mason.

“I love holding them,” six-year-old Mason told News 4. “They’re nice.”

Other parts of Wheatfield allow farm life, but according to the family, not the property where their home is, which is less than two acres and zoned residential.

“I mean, we’re in a ‘right to farm community,’ so you would think it wouldn’t be so hard, but unfortunately, it is,” Holzle said.

Holzle isn’t giving up, though. She’s spent the past week looking into how the laws work in surrounding municipalities.

“Especially North Tonawanda. The city actually allows chickens, and they’re the town right before us. So that kind of was frustrating to understand that they are allowed chickens, but in a town more rural, we’re not allowed them,” she said.

Kim will be submitting a proposal for a zoning variance.

The well-researched application asks for residents to be allowed to keep chickens if they fill out a permit, pay an annual fee, and have written consent from neighbors, and keep chickens at least 80 feet from dwellings, among several other details.

“When I started, Mason noticed what I was doing. After I explained to him we’d have to possibly get rid of them, he told me that he wants to fight right alongside with me, so that’s what we’ve been doing,” she said. “We’ve been petitioning door to door. He’s been knocking on doors telling people about our chickens, the positives of chickens.”

Door-to-door petitioning and an online petition have garnered a combined 700+ signatures in support.

Mason says he cares a lot about his chickens.

“We clean them, we feed them…we put them in their shed at night, and then we give them water,” he explained.

Kim says they meet with the town June 14. If they lose, the family says they’ll buy or lease a nearby lot that would be big enough to allow the chickens if they have to.

Niagara County legislator Jesse Gooch told News 4 he supports the Holzles, but that ultimately, it’s up to Wheatfield’s zoning board.

News 4 reached out Friday afternoon, trying an office number and a home phone number. We did not hear back Friday night.

Erica Brecher is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2018. See more of her work here.

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