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State Rep. Andrew Manuse and his daughter, Aidan Rose, 5, are looking forward to raising chickens of their own. (COURTESY)

Chickens: Now legal by less than the dozen in NH

DERRY — It's recently become a lot easier to raise backyard chickens in New Hampshire due to the repeal of a law requiring folks to buy chicks by the dozen. The man who sponsored the bill, Derry state Rep. Andrew Manuse, is celebrating by raising some hens of his own.

Manuse said he first heard of the law requiring people to buy a minimum of 12 chicks from his friends, Michael and Erica Layon.

'Luckily, my husband and I eat a lot of eggs, so it wasn't too much of a problem for us, but for other people who just wanted a couple of chickens, the law just didn't make sense,' Erica Layon said.

Last year, Manuse was talking with the Layons, who started out as constituents and became good friends. He asked them if they had any concerns he could bring to Concord. Chickens were at the top of their list.

'Three or four chickens will give 12 eggs a week,' said Manuse. 'That's enough for a lot of families, but this law was either requiring them to buy more chickens than they needed or no chickens at all.'

The law also prevented backyard farmers from diversifying their flocks with chicks born at different times of the year.

'What really bothered me is I could have crossed the border into Maine or Massachusetts and bought as many chicks as I wanted to,' said Erica Layon. 'But I didn't want to break the law over chickens.'

At a time when having access to fresh, local, organic food is increasingly important to people, Manuse said it was time for the law to go.

'With the factory farms forcing chickens into one-foot-by-one-foot cages and injecting them with hormones, it gets to the point where you don't want to put this stuff in your body,' said Manuse. 'And we're conservatives talking here, so that should raise some eyebrows about our food supply.'

Manuse sponsored House Bill 1231 to repeal the law.

As of July 22, there's no longer any minimum number of chicks, ducklings or goslings people have to buy.

The repeal should have a positive effect on business, said Garth Witty of Blue Seal Feed and Grain in Milford.

Manuse said legislators were careful to keep parts of the law in place to ensure that chicks won't be sold as gifts.

What repealing the law does ensure is that backyard farmers can keep as many, or as few, poultry as they need.

That's especially important in places like Concord, where the city places a limit on how many chickens residents can legally have, Manuse said.

For Manuse, the repeal of the law means his own family can reap the benefits of a back yard chicken coop. He recently purchased three chicks.

'Because we repealed this law, my family is able to get in the game,' said Manuse. 'My daughter is loving it.'

nfoster@newstote.com