Allentown Garden Club of New Jersey

Nov 10, 2016   -  Monthly Meeting:    The Basics of Raising Backyard Chickens and Gardening with Them

This PowerPoint presentation will discuss the most important information about why to have backyard chickens, is it legal in your town and what to do if it isn’t and the things to know before making a decision to become a henkeeper. We will cover coops, requirements of hens and selection of hens. We will also discuss gardening with chickens—what is great to grow as well as what can be toxic and how to put them to work turning over the garden and providing you with fantastic fertilizer and insect control.  Rosebud, my therapy hen, will accompany me but will only “chirp” in if she raises her wing. 


Gwenne Baile

Founder and Chair of Camden County Chickens

Chair of the Haddon Township Backyard Chicken Advisory Board


I began being interested in backyard chickens about ten years ago. I have always been a fan of Martha Stewart both watching her television show as well as subscribing to her magazine. Martha is often mentioned as the person who started the current backyard chicken movement. Prior to seeing her and reading about her with her chickens, I never imagined that a suburban town would allow chickens. At the time, I was practicing as a Certified Nurse Midwife, a position I held for about 28 years and my hours, of course, varied tremendously and my availability to do anything other than my practice was next to nil. That didn’t lessen my interest, just my ability, to do anything about it. A few months after I retired in 2009, I decided that I wanted to get my local ordinance changed that banned chickens since it lumped them into the “barnyard animal” category. I began doing research, reading everything I could. After many months, I finally got up my nerve to stand up in front of the Haddon Township Mayor and two Commissioners and tell them why I felt we should allow a few backyard hens, no roosters in our town. That started a journey that took about five years. During that time, I formed a grassroots group of about twenty residents, tabled at our famers’ market, became an Environmental Commissioner in my town and kept at it. It was a tough battle, not so much with the governing body but with residents that resisted change and felt we should just get our eggs at the farmers’ market or move to the country. Time, perseverance, and compromise won out and we succeeded in getting a one year pilot program passed which I authored and which went into effect in October, 2015. We are running our own pilot so I am the chair of the Haddon Township Backyard Chicken Advisory Board. I have a board of eight residents. We have 22 families with licenses. We have not had any complaints registered with our town since its inception. We anticipate extending the pilot one more year before asking to have it converted into an ordinance. In the meantime, having met residents of many towns in the area when I was tabling, I created and chair Camden County Chickens which is a networking group strictly to provide information and connect residents of a particular town who need to modify their town ordinance. I do this, sharing all I have learned and information I have collected, not for a fee but because I truly believe that if someone wants a couple hens, they should be able to have them. End of story. I am a firm believer in environmental and food justice and our right to know what is in our food. I currently am mentoring towns all over Camden, Burlington and Gloucester Counties. I have also taken over 50 hours of classes on backyard chickens and now will be teaching them. I recently finished a course on ‘”Therapy Chickens” and will be doing more visitations with my therapy hen, Rosebud.  But the backyard chicken issue is only one part of who I am. I am a Master Gardener and avid sustainability proponent being involved or on the board of many sustainability and gardening organizations. My life is full, very happy and I am proud to be known as “The Chicken Lady of South Jersey”.