Amherst woman taking Christmas trees to feed her goats

  • Michelle Chandler’s goats graze on grass, but will soon be enjoying Christmas trees. Submitted Photo

Staff Writer
Thursday, January 03, 2019

AMHERST — Even though a South Amherst resident continues to be embroiled in litigation with the town over keeping livestock on her property, Michelle Chandler says she hopes people will drop off used Christmas trees to help feed her 10 goats.

Chandler, of 326 West Pomeroy Lane, wrote in an email that she is welcoming area residents to bring their ornament- and tinsel-free trees to provide a nutritious meal for the herd.

“They are a bit bored with just hay and are delighted to have something different to climb on, play with and, oh yes, eat,” Chandler wrote.

The goats are able to eat all of the needles and most of the bark. Evergreens used as Christmas trees provide the goats vitamin C and other nutrients, some of which they don’t get from their normal diet of grain and hay.

Christmas trees should go in the larger half of the front yard, on the west side, according to Chandler.

Though Chandler is still running a farm, she has been challenged since town officials received complaints in January and February about noxious odors emanating from her property, which a health inspector confirmed as coming from animal waste. In addition to the goats, she has kept rabbits and chickens on the 1.14-acre property.

The Board of Health in March gave Chandler 60 days to find out whether the operation was legal, and ordered that rabbits be moved from her property to one across the street by April 1.

A cease-and-desist order issued to Chandler for keeping rabbits, chickens and goats was upheld by the Zoning Board of Appeals in April, mandating that she get a permit and register the livestock. Without the license, for an accessory residential use in the residential outlying zoning district, she would be forced to remove the goats and the 15 rabbits and 50 hens that she uses to feed her family.

Subsequently Chandler said she has challenged the Zoning Board decision in both Eastern Hampshire District Court and in state Land Court, arguing she is exempt from the registration process because her property has been a farm for more than a decade, and that the bylaw mandating registration may not be legal.

Although the removal order for the animals has been stayed until the courts make a ruling, Chandler moved the rabbits before May 20 as a gesture of good faith to her neighbors and an acknowledgment that her neighbors believe they were the main source of any odor.

“Three very kind and supportive families in other towns are hosting my rabbits until this is all resolved,” Chandler said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.