Harris Township Manager Amy Farkas knows a lot about chickens.
Enough, in fact, to give her the honorary title of chicken queen for the Centre Region.
In the spring of 2012, Harris approved an ordinance that allows people to keep hens on residential lots. Since then, Farkas has participated in a webinar about the birds and, before any of that, spent a lot of time getting to know the apparent feral chickens that hang out in Boalsburg, often near Duffy’s Tavern.
“They were a big topic of discussion during the chicken debate,” she said. “I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had to stop to let them cross the road on my way to work.”
Farkas counts about a half-dozen chickens now. Apparently, the birds like what local villages have to offer. During College Township’s recent discussion and vote on a similar backyard chicken ordinance — which failed — council Chairman Dave Fryer said three hens hang out in Lemont, on Mary and Berry streets.
“They’re not causing any trouble,” he said. “They roam freely and they roam nicely.”
That doesn’t mean residents trust the birds. Fryer said he took a phone call from a woman who came upon one of the hens tangled in a mesh fence in a garden. She didn’t want to handle the bird, so she waited about 45 minutes for her husband to return home and free it.
Harris officials tried to relocate their wild birds.
Farkas first learned of the chickens’ residency in 2008 and said she became “obsessed.” While someone said the birds came from a nearby coop raided by a bear, that turned out not to be the case.
“They were becoming a problem,” Farkas said. “They were in people’s yards. The rooster does, of course, what a rooster does. He crows.”
The township looked into chicken catchers, but Farkas didn’t want bad karma from killing the birds. Supervisor Bud Graham attempted to catch and relocate the birds, but only managed to do so with one or two.
The chickens were multiplying and, at one point, there were rival flocks, totaling about 18 birds. Farkas wonders if one of the flocks moved to Lemont.
One resident’s family helped relocate about a dozen birds to a farm. Otherwise, Farkas hasn’t been able to move them, and they’re just a village feature.
“I did research and tried to find them a home,” she said. “And nobody wanted them.”
So the chickens abide.
Jessica VanderKolk writes this weekly column featuring news from the Centre Region. Contact her at 235-3910. Follow her on Twitter @jVanReporter.