Lamb Castle to present more information, hopes a committee will be formed

    Even as she continues to gather information on other cities across the country that have approved ordinances allowing their residents to raise backyard chickens, Crookston resident Heidi Lamb Castle is careful to not make the scope of her efforts to persuade the Crookston City Council to do the same too grand.   

    In other words, she's trying to keep it simple, while dispelling what she says are myths and misperceptions about raising backyard chickens.   

    "I think there's a fear that there's going to be 45 chickens and roosters going crazy all over the yard," Lamb Castle said Thursday while standing next to the chicken coop in her family's Crookston backyard, which hasn't had any chickens for some time. "What we're asking for is an ordinance allowing six hens to be raised, with no roosters."   

    Another misperception in Lamb Castle's eyes? That if the city council puts an ordinance on the books allowing up to six backyard hens, families from one end of Crookston to the other will be raising hens in their backyards. She's pretty well-connected to the growing local community of families that want to eat healthier food raised closer to home, and even though it's a movement that's gaining popularity, Lamb Castle said "these are not big numbers we're talking about." If the council OKs an ordinance, she predicts up to five families at the most, including hers, would raise hens on their property.   

    Last summer, the council's Ways & Means Committee deadlocked 4-4 on a motion to recommend council approval of a backyard hen ordinance. The tie vote meant the motion died. Including Mayor Dave Genereux's vote, there's an odd number on the committee, but Ward 3 Council Member Gary Willhite, who will take over as mayor in January, abstained from voting, saying he wanted more information on the subject.   

    Since then, Lamb Castle has been providing more information to Willhite, other council members, new council members elected last month, and city officials, including City Administrator Shannon Stassen, who has told council members for some time that the movement toward healthier, locally grown/raised food is a good one.   

    While she's not pushing for or expecting any kind of vote on Monday, Dec. 8, at the "open forum" portion that evening's city council meeting at 7 p.m., Lamb Castle will present updated information on a potential backyard hen ordinance in Crookston. She said she'll have a PowerPoint presentation, and she's expecting a few other proponents of backyard hens to attend to show their support.   

    If the vote from last summer is any indication, Lamb Castle will be losing two allies on the council at the end of December, when Hector Santellanes and Dana  Johnson attend their final council meetings. The new council members who defeated them in the November election, Dennis Regan and Steve Erickson, have heard from Lamb Castle since their victories.   

    "I think people are listening, and I think as they learn more about the realities of doing this, the positive benefits of doing this, and how it doesn't mean a neighborhood or a whole community is going to be destroyed by chickens, they're looking at it differently," Lamb Castle said in her yard Thursday.   

    She added that she hopes her presentation Monday results in the formation of a small committee to continue researching the subject, with an eye on another council vote in 2015.