Help Save Michele's Chickens

My name is Charlene Tobey and I am raising money for my neighbor Michele Conway so that she is able to hire an attorney in order to protect her rights to keep her backyard chickens.  This situation has already caused the City of Salem to rewrite the ordinances for the keeping of backyard chickens and Michele has been in compliance from the very beginning.  Unfortunately mediation is not on the table as the neighbor has said the only solution they are looking for is the removal of the chickens.  Therefore the only alternative for Michele is to hire an attorney.  The outcome of this situation does not only affect Michele, but all of us who love our backyard chickens in Salem!  All donations go directly to Michele’s attorney fund.

The following is her story:

In 2012, I decided to get a few backyard chickens.  I already had a huge vegetable garden covering most of my backyard, and I thought chickens would add to my green lifestyle.  I did much research on city ordinances, reached out to the animal control officer and my neighbors and found no opposition.

In April 2013, a few weeks after setting up the coop and welcoming my 5 baby chicks, the first of many certified letters began to arrive. That letter stated the “chicken coop” was too close to the property line per city ordinance.  I immediately moved my coop, with the help of 2 neighbors.  

I thought that was the end of it and was dismayed that someone in the neighborhood would complain without talking to me first.  But, unfortunately, that was just the beginning of 2 years of harassment and bullying by, as it turned out, my new neighbors, who had just moved in.

Next, I was cited for a zoning violation, stating I was running a “poultry operation”.  I had to pay $575  to appeal the violation.  After winning that battle, my neighbors took to the court system, suing me and the City of Salem to overturn the zoning board of appeals decision.  They tried to get an injunction in superior court forcing me to keep the chickens inside their original coop, never allowing them into their new run.  The whole point of having chickens was to have healthy eggs while giving the chickens a happy, healthy life.  My neighbors lost that battle, too.  The judge said I was well within my rights and city ordinances and I could keep my chickens and allow them into the run.

It’s been 2 years of constant stress, and my neighbors are relentless in their harassment.  They have even hired a lawyer to come at me from every angle, even though it's well within my legal rights to have chickens in Salem, MA.   They constantly video tape me, photograph me and file unsubstantiated complaints to every city department.  The City Council even created an ordinance to allow chickens, hoping that would end the harassment by my neighbor.  But, now they are turning to the health department, claiming that they are getting feathers in their backyard.  I have moved my coop further from their property line and re-built my run using very tightly woven wire mesh to contain any feathers.   When city officials asked if my neighbors were willing to go through mediation with me, they refused, saying the only outcome they would accept was me getting rid of my chickens.

I am sending out a plea for help so I can hire an attorney who will help me fight for my right to keep my 5 pet chickens and stop the endless harassment by my neighbors. 

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    • $10 
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  • Stan Franzeen 
    • $25 
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  • Anonymous 
    • $50 
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  • Sharon Shea 
    • $5 
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Charlene Tobey 
Salem, MA
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