Garden City, MI: Man sentenced to jail time on the CRIMINAL charge of keeping chickens!

garden city mi man found guilty on criminal charge of keeping backyard chickens

Guys, you really can’t make this sort of stuff up.  Randy Zeilinger, a Garden City MI resident, has been found guilty on the CRIMINAL charge of keeping city mi man found guilty on criminal charge of keeping backyard chickens

Think about that for a minute.  A criminal charge follows you for your entire life.  A criminal charge must be reported on job applications. A criminal conviction is reported to state and federal agencies.

The sentence is:

  • 30 days in jail
  • 6 months of reporting to probation
  • $905 in fines
  • Pay for the court appointed attorney
  • Comply with all city ordinances

But the honorable Judge Hammer was “nice” and suspended the jail time. However, if Randy fails on any of the above details he will be thrown in jail. That was clearly stated.

A few days after conviction, Randy began receiving new ordinance violations in the mail. These include a violation for keeping a wild skunk, a vandalized porch and peeling paint on his garage. The Garden City Ordinance Officer has indicated that he will be visiting Randy often and writing violations for anything that he can. Randy will likely face another year of bi-monthly court appearances.

 Synopsis of Randy’s story (full story here):

From Randy: ‘I purchased my home in 2000. I started moving in around March of the same year. I moved my bee hives at the same time and was immediately confronted by a neighbor who called the police.  The attending officer said that bees were OK if I kept them in my own yard. In hind sight, I should have noted the complaint and resulting dialog. However, I thought that I was within my rights based on the Michigan state law, often referred to as the “Right to Farm Act”.  In fact, I was (am) covered by this law. Over the next ten years or so, this same neighbor lodged numerous complaints against me. City officials recognized that these complaints were baseless in nature and merely a case of “everyone has one of THOSE neighbors”. ‘

*A note on the Michigan Right to Farm Act: it supersedes local city/town ordinances.  While I (Laura) opted to work with my city to have an ordinance included in our muni code allowing for chickens, technically I didn’t need to.  Taken from MRTFA : (6) Beginning June 1, 2000, except as otherwise provided in this section, it is the express legislative intent that this act preempt any local ordinance, regulation, or resolution that purports to extend or revise in any manner the provisions of this act or generally accepted agricultural and management practices developed under this act. Except as otherwise provided in this section, a local unit of government shall not enact, maintain, or enforce an ordinance, regulation, or resolution that conflicts in any manner with this act or generally accepted agricultural and management practices developed under this act. This section affirms your Michigan right to continuation business farming operating within generally accepted agricultural and management practices (GAAMPS) guidelines and supersedes any city laws that may forbid said farming. For your reference, Shelby Township v. Papesh is a similar case and may assist in your legal determinations.

Here’s where things start falling apart for Randy:

  • In 2009 he acquires  some chickens and ducks. After a year of keeping chickens and ducks, he rehomed the ducks after a neighbor complained to him about them.
  • In 2012, the same neighbor that complained about the ducks complained to Randy about the chickens. This neighbor posits that “he never asked her permission to have them (the chickens)”.
  • The neighbor who complained to Randy about his chickens also complained to him about: his koi and frog pond & a tree growing in his front yard.  This neighbor called the city and demanded that they cut down Randy’s tree, which the city refused to do (thankfully).
  • The complaining neighbor, now incensed, files a legal complaint about Randy’s chickens.  The Garden City ordinance officer cites Randy with keeping chickens, despite not seeing any signs of chickens on Randy’s property. The ordinance officer visited Randy’s farm on March 21, 2012.  Several weeks later, Randy received a post card from 21st District Court to appear for a zoning violation dated March 23, 2012.

The ordinance violation was written against a 50 year-old ordinance.

     (A)     No person shall keep or house any animals or fowl within the city except dogs, cats, canaries, or animals commonly classified as pets, customarily kept or housed inside dwellings as household pets.

     (B)     No person shall sell, or offer for sale, barter, or give away baby chicks, rabbits, ducklings, or other fowl as pets or novelties, whether or not dyed, colored, or otherwise artificially treated. This division shall not be construed to prohibit the display or sale of natural chicks or ducklings in proper brooder facilities by hatcheries or stores engaged in the business of selling the same to be raised for commercial purposes.

(Ord. 11-006, passed 4-25-11)

Now, here’s where things get surreal.

  • Mid-April, Randy appears in court before the Honorable Judge Richard L, Hammer, Jr. of the 21st. District Court.  The judge sent Randy back to meet with the city prosecutor, Timothy L. Cronin (P26417).
  • During this meeting, Mr. Cronin said that if Randy wanted a farm then he should move out of the city. When Randy replied that he was unable to move, he said that chickens were not allowed in the city and if Randy pursued the case that he would “make an example” of him. He went on to say that the mayor did not want farm animals in the city and that he took direction from the mayor. He further indicated that Randy was not welcome in this city and he would be foolish to continue the case. At no time did he indicate that a compromise could be reached.
  • Randy appears at city council meetings while his court dates are repeatedly postponed, speaking in favor of allowing backyard chickens in Garden City.  After one meeting, reporter Sue Buck runs a story in the June 24 2012 issue of the Garden City Observer on Randy and 2 others who spoke positively about keeping backyard chickens.  The other 2 individuals cited in the paper received chicken keeping code violation notices in the mail immediately after.
  • Randy’s complaining neighbor vandalizes his property and calls the city to lodge a complaint about it being in disarray.
  • An anonymous call is made complaining about a rooster crowing.  Randy has no rooster.
  • Randy’s complaining neighbor drives to Westland to visit his 80 year old mother, demanding that she force her son to do what they ask (remove chickens, cut down tree, etc).  The woman is fearful and traumatized.
  • By the end of July 2012, the police have been out to Randy’s house a half a dozen times. Each time was a response to an anonymous complaint called in. No charges were leveled.
  • In August 2012, police respond to a complaint about a skunk found in the complaining neighbors yard. Three police officers in two cars responded to the call. They insisted that Randy do something about the skunk in the neighbor’s yard. The neighbor had mentioned that the skunk had come from Randy and that he had sent it to spray them. The armed police officers force Randy from his house to go retrieve a wild skunk- which turned out to be a baby skunk with barely open eyes.  Randy retrieves the skunk from under the neighbors car, receives a ticket for having an unlicensed animal, and is left with the task of getting the baby skunk to a wildlife rehabilitator.

    armed police force citizen to retrieve skunk after neighbor complained that he had sent it to spray them "attack skunk"
    Skunk cops are on patrol!

In fall 2012 Randy finally gets closer to a court date, is allowed a court appointed attorney. Initially, the court told the defending attorney that the case was about the skunk but in reality, the case was about keeping chickens and the Michigan Right to Farm Act.

  • Randy’s appointed attorney, James M. Jernigan (P-57035) took the case even though he was somewhat skeptical at first. Randy explained the RTFA and how it applied to his case. Randy explained the GAAMPs, the history of the law and cited other cases that had been tried and eventually reached the Michigan Court of Appeals.
  • Randy’s case is repeatedly delayed due in part to another chicken keeper case being tried in the 21st District Court. That case was actually moved to the city of Wayne and presided by city of Wayne Judge Laura R. Mack, because Judge Hammer was recused.  That case is City of Garden City v. Pete Santeiu (Case No, 12 GC 1547 OM).  That case was dismissed by Judge Mack. Signed and dated: January 7, 2013.
  • In February 2013, the Garden City prosecution amended Randy’s case to be a criminal complaint rather than the original animal ordinance violation.
  • Randy’s jury trial is set for April 11 & 12th 2013.
  • Several points of law were disallowed based on the fact that this was a criminal charge and not merely a zoning violation. Case law, Court of Appeals decisions and opinions were discounted. The ruling of Judge Mack (representing the same court, and for the same sort of case) was disallowed.
  • Several individuals came to testify for Randy’s defense, stating he was a good neighbor and that the chickens were not a nuisance in any way.
  • Prosecution presented documents (not entered into evidence) that challenged Randy’s claim of GAAMP compliance. In a nutshell, it was argued that by Randy exceeding the GAAMP protocols, he was not “following” the GAAMPs. Thus if he wasn’t following GAAMPs then he was not compliant and not protected by MRTFA.

This case is disturbing on so many levels.  If you’d like to read about it in Randy’s own words, click here.

I urge you all to share this far and wide- it’s gotten NO media attention here in Michigan, and likely won’t without a grassroots effort.  Also, if you’d like to share your thoughts on this situation, please direct them to the Garden City mayor and councilmembers, as well as the senatorial representatives.  Follow us on Facebook for updates on Randy’s story as it continues to unfold.


Randy was interviewed on Fox 2 Detroit.  His neighbor chimed in as well, and showed just the sort of behavior you’d never want to see from a neighbor, even if you didn’t have chickens.


52 thoughts on “Garden City, MI: Man sentenced to jail time on the CRIMINAL charge of keeping chickens!

  1. Remain strong Randy-I will call your congressman and ask for his assistance in this matter! I had a similiar situation and understand what you are going through! Hopefully others will contact the congressmen also! Nancy Haun

    1. Thank you Nancy! After publishing this today and pushing it out to news sources, Randy has been interviewed by two local reporters. I’m really hoping that he gets heard far and wide, and that Garden City is forced to deal with the ramifications of how terribly obtuse they’ve been.

    2. This is crazy. His neighbor is in the wrong. It is awful having a neighbor like that. Our first commandment in the Bible is to care for the animals. Unless he had too many for the land, he had he should be able to keep the chickens. They eat the mosquitoes eggs and other harmful insects, plus they enrich the land with compost. Much healthier than dogs or cats for everyone..

  2. Randy needs to appeal the case as many times as it takes (or until at the top) to win. Everyone knows it is bullshit. In fact, if he hasn’t, he needs to sue the city and have the entire event fixed.

  3. I hope he can find some way to press charges against his neighbor for something…. the whole thing is unbelievable! I shared his story!! Hang in there Randy!

  4. The local government officials of Garden City sound more like a gestapo. If I am reading correctly, they have conconcted laws that they have convicted Randy of breaking, while they, themselves break laws. Hmmmm – something wrong with this picture. VERY WRONG!!!!! Glad to see this going viral. I think it’s time for a HUGE dose of public embarrassment for the officials of Garden City who participated in this vendetta.

    1. Agreed Diane! I hope the Garden City officials learn from this and re-examine their stance on backyard hens, and their approach to prosecuting a victimless ‘crime’.

    2. Maybe they need to change the name of the city to Gestapo City. Sure isn’t any Garden there!

  5. I am passing this story on to all of my backyard keeping friends on FB and all other media locations. This kind of personal persecution by the neighbor is bad enough BUT that the city is supporting the neighbor’s personal vendetta is even worse.

    1. Thank you for sharing Sandra! The more we all cast light on this, the better the chances are that Randy’s case will be revisited. It’s amazing how this has turned into a criminal case over 11 chickens.

  6. I cannot believe that the police made Randy remove a wild skunk from his neighbors’ yard and then cited him for it! His neighbor justified having the police to harass Randy into removing the skunk because, well, if he keeps chickens, then he MUST keep wild skunks despite the fact that they’re not domestic animals and would steal the eggs given a chance! I hope that he perseveres in this case. Everything about this is just so wrong.

    1. I spoke to Randy briefly about this, here’s his answer: “The skunk thing was based on the signs I have in my yard. I’m a certified Monarch Way Station, an NWF Wildlife habitat and a SEMBA butterfly habitat. Thus, supporting nature it’s safe to assume that any wildlife comes from my house?!?!” Unreal!!

  7. If this wasn’t reported as facts, I would think I was reading a made-up story for a television comedy of errors…this whole situation is unbelievable. The authorities need to be telling the neighbor to mind his own business! This neighbor needs to be outed and sued for harassment. I think that would be my next step…suing for harassment. The insanity of requiring Randy to remove a wild skunk really tops it off as beyond belief. This is like a bad dream. No one in their right mind would imagine this could be happening in the USA. But, if Randy ever decides to move, there is one thing he could do…as a friend of mine did in a California town. She had neighbors who constantly harassed her about her birds, she had a couple geese in the back yard. Harassment included poisoning some of her critters. Well, she decided to move. She carefully reviewed all potential buyers to her property…and sold it to a motorcycle guy, with friends who were hard core dudes with lots of late night partying and lots of noise! Payback big time.

    1. Great idea. That’s what I’d do AFTER I proved my charges against the neighbor and sued them for everything that I could. Maybe they would think twice before trying to ruin someone’s life.

      1. Harassment charges definitely need to happen. I’m hoping Randy contacts the ACLU and maybe a good lawyer in the area will reach out to him after his story spreads.

    2. Laurella- so sorry to hear about your friends bad neighbor, but I LOVE the idea of reviewing potential buyers to place the most likely to offend next to an incessantly complaining neighbor!

  8. He should file a complaint with the ACLU against his neighbor. That would stop the police from coming to his house every time someone calls. I had to do this about eight years ago against a psycho neighbor!

  9. This whole thing is baloney. As a Mi native, this makes me sad to see the unhinging of common sense there. {Reminds me of the ban on heritage pig breeds, too. }

    I hate to say it, but Mi isn’t the only state affected by insanity. For instance, in Co, it’s illegal to collect rain water on your own property. Yep. Illegal.

    I think Or has something similar on the books, too. Of course, given that Nestle is trying to privatize water and patent naturaly growing plants {in addition to components of breast milk }, I am just waiting gor someone to start charging for and/or charging for sunshine and air.

    The world has gone insane. 😡

    1. I’ve heard about the water thing- it seems completely insane, even with the justification that there’s little rainfall in the areas that usually have that sort of law on the books. I would think if there was such a concern about water being contained and not getting back to the environment, then they could put a cap on large quantities being stored, like in massive cisterns or something. Even then, it still just seems patently wrong to tell someone they can’t collect rainwater falling on their own property.

  10. Sounds to me like the “neighbor” is about as redneck ignorant as a body can get….whats he doing in the “city”?! Ghost Roosters, Kamakaze Skunks & oh, dont forget my favorite, “I’m gonna tell your mama!” Really? LOL! Pathetic. Hang in there Randy….prayin this all ends well for ya! 🙂

    1. I’ve seen video of the neighbor on Fox 2 Detroit’s website- I was shocked to find out that the neighbor isn’t a bratty 6 year old child, and is instead a middle age man. I don’t know how anyone can make it to that age while being so bitter and cantankerous.

  11. Wow! I am totaly amazed at how Randy looks like a victim and blames his neighbor oh boo fricken hoo! Never mentoned is the one that lived on the other sideTerrible pepole that took care of his pets and lawn when he would go off on trips. Not to mention help him paint his home invite over for barbeques and family gatherings.
    If you told your neigbor the chicken smell is getting bad to please try to get rid of the stink. Would you expect him to start running over your trash cans and bragging about doing that on his web site. I am sure Randy was a victim when her Husband was Three hours away and he would let his internet buddys know she was alone her phone number and address.We all have seen Randy he is not a small guy, The woman he bullied weighs in at 100 pounds. Oh yeah thats right Randy claims that she is crazy or going thru the change. We all need to just belive Randy and give him a big hug. Dose a child not live with Mom anf Dad, Randy has not worked in 10 years living in a home piad for by mommy! sounds kind of spoiled to me. She also pays all of his bills not the elven chickens laying golden eggs.

  12. Wow,C.K. Niemi, if you are any indication of the mentality of the people Randy has to deal with, I’m surprised the guy isn’t in a stress unit somewhere. Please, if you can’t say anything intelligent, at least use spell check. Every story has two sides, but you do the opposing side more harm than good when you have no command of the language in which you are complaining.

  13. Whether or not Randy works is not the issue. I knew of a family where the man did not work…he didn’t work because he had a very serious back problem and was in constant pain…but he LOOKED normal so everyone thought ill of him. Well, when the pain got too bad, he jumped into his well and drowned himself. The question is not about Randy here, it is about a neighbor who spends his/her time harassing Randy. Going to visit Randy’s mother to complain…that is a topper…just as it is with the baby skunk. And local officials supporting this nasty neighbor…just wrong. There are too many cases like this…of a neighbor with nothing to do but harass someone in the neighborhood. In one case a woman lost her home over it, and almost lost her teenage son…because of a nasty neighbor in cahoots with the local police. These cases are popping up across the US. It seems some people want to control what their neighbor is doing…when it is totally none of their business! These nosy people need to get involved in volunteer work or do something positive instead of making life miserable for the neighborhood!

    1. I an sorry to hear of the Family that lost someone. I am very close to he family that walked away from their home. They lived their for twenty years and worked hard to have a nice home. This family treated Randy as part of the family. I have known the family for 45 years and Randy for 12. You need to talk to all neigbors not just Randy and Craig. What he did to the family was wrong and no one should harrass someones wife when her husband is three hours away! She is very upset by what Randy put her thru. I am shocked that someone I called my friend could do that to anyone. Randy needs to stop the finger pointing. I am sure you will always 100% belive Randy, Every story has two sides. The best of luck in the fight for Chickens. Just try not to hurt others along the way.

      1. CK Niemi: Randy has mentioned that he was on good terms with his neighbors initially, and that they knew his mother and had been very close to him- so no, I don’t think they’re terrible for that reason. Repeatedly reporting a neighbor for violations that they didn’t commit (attack skunk, rooster crowing when he owns no rooster) *is* terrible. Also terrible is demanding the city cut down his tree- that shows a complete disregard for property rights and an ignorance of city responsibility. If Randy was harassing the woman, did she report THAT to the police? Or did she only report his chickens/skunk/etc? If Randy ran over her garbage can and “talked about it on his website”, then where’s the evidence of that? That seems like a valid reason to call the police.

        I think in the end, this can teach us all a very valuable lesson about neighbor relations and trying to be good to one another- I don’t know where it started, but it shouldn’t have ended with Randy in court trying to fight for his right to keep hens that state law says he can have.

      2. The tree Randy planted is three feet on his neighbor’s property. Violation of property rights is on Randy. They made copies of all the comments he made about his neighbor, including a picture of a pet skunk in his house. They went to an arbitrator over the case and Randy is not to talk about his neighbor or mention their name again. He can have another law suit against him if he dose. They moved to get away from all of this. The only truth in Randy’s stories is he has chickens and it violates city Laws. Try to change that but leave the pepole that moved away out of the battle.

  14. The fact is that if people cannot provide food for themselves in ANY neighborhood, that we cannot pretend we are free. The fact that there are other human beings in the general area doesn’t negate in any way that this is a miscarriage of justice.

  15. the ACLU will only deal with constitutional issues, not neighborhood disputes, so i think this will be a no-starter for them… do you have a way to get in touch with randy? i’d like him to get in touch with the lawyer i used when oak park was threatening me with jail time over my garden (we won, right?)- if you want me to email the contact info to you, i can. also, is there any other way i could help? i will contact the garden city officials, but is there anything else you can think of? if you don’t mind, just let me know on my blog what you think i should/could do next… thanks! -julie

  16. This is incredible. Absolutely incredible. HOW was he ever charged with the wild skunk incident? It’s a WILD SKUNK? Hello? Should I sue the family down the lane with letting their flies over here? NO! That neighbor should be run out of town on a rail. Randy, come on down to Georgia-we like homesteaders down here. I’m from Illinois originally and I can say I am embarrassed for the state of Michigan. You are acting like a bunch of preschoolers. *shaking head* unbelievable….

    1. Hi Kerstin- I guess the neighbor decided that it was Randy’s attack skunk because his yard is a certified monarch way-station and he has a general pro-wildlife/nature stance. You know those hippie nature lovers are natural attack skunk trainers. 😉

  17. People, please just eat in your own plate, mind your own. I’ve seem the guys yard. Randy is self contained in his own little world, hes not hurting anyone. As far as that Mrs. Cravets neighboe grow up act your age and live your own life. I’m sure Randy dident just come over one day and say I’ve got chickens and I’m here to make your life a living hell, it seems more like you got a bug up your a– and wanted to start somthing. Come on your life can’t truly be that boring. Now Mrs. Cravets look at all the trouble you have caused, are you proud of your self. This world is going to hell in a hand basket because of people like you. Live your own life be happy spred love not and understanding of others diffrent then you and stop trying to make others conform to your narrow world.

  18. This series of events has taken many twists and turns. I am mostly amused at the few diatribes and greatly appreciative of the support.

  19. He needs to file a cruel an unusual punishment complaint against the police for forcing him, under threat, to handle a wild skunk, which can transmit rabies. That’s crazy behavior .

    And his mom needs to file a restraining order on the neighbor.

    He should have had asked his council to have the judge recused based on the fact the Judge stated his allegiance to the mayor and stated he would rule based on political favor and not rule of law.



    November 18, 2013 [Earlville, NY] – A resident of a rural NY village is being charged with a criminal offense for violating a targeted spite law. Michael Kicinski, a resident of Earlville since 2003, is charged with violating “Local Law #1 of 2007” banning practically all animals except horses. He was the only person in the village who was recognized and allowed by the village government to keep chickens and rabbits. He is the only one targeted by the law, despite the fact that he has a contract with the village that he has never violated, and where there has never been any issue.

    A trial date is set for December 4, 2013. A search warrant has been issued and will be served some time during the week of November 18. The spite law was passed November 13, 2007 and the case has been ongoing since he was first ticketed April 2008. During this time the case has seen 4 judges, 3 mayors (two that resigned because they were arrested), 2 clerks, and several changes in trustees.

    More information can be found on the website


    Earlville, 2010 census population 872, is a 1.1 square mile incorporated village in central New York that straddles Madison County to the north and Chenango County to the south. The village is approximately 60% farm and wooded land.

    Michael Kicinski, has been a resident of Earlville since 2003. Before moving to the village, he was given permission to keep chickens and rabbits according to the then current 1963 ordinance. Permission was confirmed upon purchasing his 3.6 acre property and moving into the village. One and a half years later, the board gave permission to increase the number of chickens. In 2007, the board arbitrarily banned most animals, except horses, from the village. Since Kicinski had permission to raise the animals for the lifetime ownership of his property, he has kept his animals. He was ticketed in 2008, taken to Earlville court and lost, but won on appeal to the County. He has also been ticketed for violating the Earlville court order (that was overturned by the County court) for failure to get rid of the chickens.


  21. Appeal. And unfortunately, freedom is not free. But right now, criminal charges are hanging over your head. If anything, punishment (lifetime criminal offense) does not fit the “crime.”

  22. I thought that the police and the politicians here in the UK are not very bright, but yours really are totally incompetent.
    Makes me wonder if they are taking bribes from the neighbour.

  23. If anyone wants help of the unorthodox variety with this, contact me.

    Criminal charges will prevail, but not for having a fucking birding the back yard.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s