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The Bremerton Chicken is free to live in the city
There’s no longer a hatchet, or sunset clause, as it were, hanging over the heads of chickens taking up coop in the City of Bremerton.When the Bremerton City Council, in a split vote, passed a chicken ordinance last year, they included a sunset clause in case things didn’t work out. But a couple of weeks ago, the council voted unanimously to do away with that sunset clause and to increase the number of chickens that residents can keep from four to five birds. The council also reduced the setback for coops from property lines from 10 feet to 3 feet and allowed for coops to be attached to existing structures.
Local chicken advocates have been clucking with joy ever since. Not to worry, though, no roosters will crow at the break of day, since only hens are allowed inside city limits.
Perry Avenue resident Carolee Valentine, who is a passionate advocate for chickens in Bremerton, and waged “a hard-fought battle” with several friends and neighbors last year, was thrilled by the council’s actions this month.
“There were people on the council (last year) that were a little more progressive and know that all over the country there are cities that are passing chicken laws — huge cities, like New York, Chicago, Minneapolis, Spokane, Tacoma, Olympia and Seattle,” Valentine said. “So, there’s lot of precedent for it, but it was a really tight vote. We were just holding our breath in the council chambers that night waiting to see what happened. It felt like it was not a done deal until it was over. The reason that some of them voted for it was because they put this sunset clause. So, if the world fell apart because Bremerton allowed chickens in the city , they could rescind the law and it would just be gone on the 30th of June this year, which is why we had to go back to the council.”
Marie Vila, who works for the city and lives about a mile from city hall, also spoke up, as a private citizen and not an employee, when the sunset clause came up for a vote this month.
“They’re just fun to have,” Vila said of owning chickens. “I firmly believe it should be an opportunity for folks in the city. It does not cause problems, but it creates a benefit in our neighborhoods. Kids are curious about them and neighbors want to help out. It’s just a bonding experience for everybody.”
Valentine says that the most obvious reason for having your own chickens is the eggs. They taste better and are better for you, she said. “They have more vitamins and minerals,” she said. “There is less cholesterol and more Omega-3s, that’s a scientific fact. And, I have a real issue with the way egg production is done in this country, so I don’t want to be a part of that system.”But, having one’s own chickens goes well beyond the taste and health benefits.
“The thing that most surprised me about the whole venture, is how much I like the chickens,” Valentine said. “I guess we had chickens when I was a kid, but I was pretty little and don’t remember much about. I just love having them, even though they’re pains because they can be very destructive in the garden, but they are so much fun. They really are like pets, not quite like a dog or a cat, but they’re very friendly and humorous and fun to watch. They kind of have a peacefulness about them that surprises me. They have a gentle little clucking noises that they make.”
For those that might be interested in raising chickens within city limits, a great place to start will be Chicken Day on June 14 the Bremerton Farmers Market.
There will be chickens on hand for children to pet and 12-year-old Bremerton resident Lina Fowler will give a mini class on raising chickens.“Isn’t that funny, she’s gonna teach a chicken class and her last name is Fowler,” Valentine said. “She’s a pretty cool kid. She’s like a chicken whisperer. She just loves chickens.”
Folks that are ready to take the leap and raise chickens of their own can head to Raincreek Pottery & Poultry in Sunnyslope, which is run by Pam and Andy Buck. They have 14 breeds, including one dubbed “the Bremerton Chicken,” and hatching goes on year round.“
As soon as they started allowing chickens in Bremerton we started getting customers coming out to the farm with a mantra: they would all say, “ ‘We need four chicks that will lay eggs, but they all have to grow up to be hens because we can’t have a rooster where we live,’ ” Pam Buck said. “So, we knew they were Bremerton residents that came to get their chickens and we had just the bird for them which we then started calling the Bremerton Chicken."
The Bremerton Chicken, also known as the Golden Star, is a hybrid cross that creates a supreme layer that is attractive and personable, Pam Buck said. They will lay about six eggs per week throughout the year. The Golden Star is on the small side so they are easy on the feed bill, but they lay extra large to jumbo sized brown eggs. They start laying at about five months old where the average age is usually about six months or older for other breeds.
“The golden star can also be sexed easily at hatch so I can guarantee all girls,” Buck said.