On April 25, 2012, Leah Thornsen of the Post Dispatch did a front page feature article under the Community section on Guy Niere and his backyard chickens. A top by-line states, cutely, "Egged on by residents, more and more towns approve".
However that knowledge seems to have skipped the mayor of Black Jack. He has made an issue of singling out Guy and has given him until July 2 to get rid of his flock of birds. And the mayor has no idea of what kind of birds that he is condemning.
Guy not only has chickens for laying eggs, he is one of 8 breeders in the US who are trying to preserve the rare Black Penedesenca. This breed was brought back from the edge of extinction in the 1980's by efforts of the Spanish government and Catalan University. Renouned as the second darkest egg layer, this chicken has a white ear lobe - unusual in that ear lobe colour dictates the colour of eggs laid - this breed is an anomaly in the animal world. There were 80 eggs shipped to the US, 13 of which hatched. The birds that Guy has are from these eggs, and his preservation programme and his years of research on genetics are threatened to be thrown away for naught.
The mayor apparently does not know that his very close neighbours - and upwards of a dozen citizens in Black Jack - keep chickens. Guy Niere advised the Richmond Heights City Council on their chicken keeping agenda. As a result, chicken keeping was approved and passed. Creve Coeur, Ellisville, Shrewsbury - many, many municipalities have joined and embraced the sustainable living culture movement which has been documented by Wall Street, National Public Radio, and many publications and is now so acknowledged as to be old news. Guy teaches beginner and advanced backyard chicken keeping classes at St. Louis Community College. The courses encompass nutrition, genetics, housing, law, zoning and coding, and sustainable agriculture. Guy is not just, well, "a guy" keeping a few birds around harassing people. His neighbours are all very upset and are creating a petition to pass around to sign in favour of his chicken keeping programme.
By condemning Guy's chickens, the city of Black Jack is combating the local sustainable food movement culture. Incorporated in 1970, its history seeps back in time. Guy's family has lived and farmed in this area since the 1870's. He has had and kept chickens since he was a child. Generic chickens, for food and eggs, are laudable enough, but his breeding restoration programme of the Spanish Black Penedesencas, and the unfeasible time frame of 4 weeks to dispose of them, is a travesty.
There is a city hall meeting in Black Jack tonight. It starts at 7:30 pm. Visitors may attend and sign up on a roster to voice their agenda. The address is 12500 Old Jamestown Road 63033. Many of us from the local St. Louis Backyard Chicken Meetup group will be in attendance.
If you don't think that your personal rights might be taken from you - think again. Recently Ballwin passed an ordinance allowing chickens then turned around and banned them, leaving chicken owners in the lurch. Chickens make less nuisance noise than barking dogs and provide food in the form of eggs and fertilizer for the gardens and are very companionable pets, there should not be such an issue on the banning of them from municipalities.
Please come and voice your concern and support for chicken keepers.