A 12-year-old Grove City boy's knowledge and amiable personality may win him his heart's desire - a coop full of city-slicker chickens.
"I feel pretty at peace, but I was tense at first about them accepting it," said Sebastian Anastasi, about first meeting with borough officials about his research into raising backyard chickens.
However, it landed him a thumbs up several months ago by the Grove City Planning Commission, which included a new draft written to lift the borough's restriction on having farm animals that is still pending.
Sebastian has had the full support of his parents, Vincent and Sarah Anastasi, who believed the town leaders realized her son isn't "a kid who just wanted a pet," his mom said. "The door opened and they gave him an opportunity and everyone was willing to let him speak. It's a great opportunity. This was his heart."
Residents have gone before the planning commission in the past about raising backyard chickens, Sebastian added, which was "encouraging" to him.
The potential ordinance change, which would allow residents to raise four to six chickens in the borough under certain conditions and restrictions, is now under consideration by borough council.
Sebastian "gave a great presentation for a 12-year-old, talking about the benefits of raising chickens and giving a layout," said Joel Bigley at Monday's council meeting. Bigley is chair of the Infrastructure Committee, which met April 12 with Sebastian and his father.
"It was very interesting," he added.
Father and son have invited all of council via email to speak to them about backyard chickens. Jeff Black, council vice president, sat down with them; others emailed back.
Bigley said he wanted to plan another workshop so more council members could hear from the Anastasis, before a decision is made on the ordinance change.
"He's done the majority of the work," Anastasi said of his son.
"When I was 12, I couldn't have gone to the town council and spoke intelligibly without shaking in my boots. He spoke well and respectfully."
"He's a real confident speaker," added Sebastian's mother, who homeschools all of her children. Anastasi is an English teacher at Grove City High School.
Sebastian feels homeschooling has helped him overcome dyslexia by keeping him in an environment where he gets personal attention.
Sebastian also takes speech classes with the Western Pennsylvania Association of Christian Orators, which he feels helped him address the town leaders, along with "having the parents I've had," he said.
"My mom came from a great family," which included his grandma who "has been a gardening mentor," Sebastian noted.
His father "has tried so much to be a good mentor to us and take care of us, and he is an inspiration for me," he said.
"Being educated by Mom and Dad has helped me overcome my hurdles. I'm always talking to them about what I've learned."
Sebastian has been researching backyard chickens since he was 10. His interest in having chickens in his backyard on McConnell Street, along Wolf Creek, began "with an interest for good food, and continued with my mother's Mother Earth News magazines, books from my grandparents and researching," he said.
A fair hosted by Mother Earth News "really sparked it for him," his dad added, where Sebastian gave a presentation. "I don't know how many books he has on chickens now."
However, the two learned that "major cities in America are allowing people to keep normal-size hens in places like Manhattan. Towns and boroughs have encountered more resistance, but in the past few years there have been hundreds of new ordinances passed so it's a growing interest across the nation."
Sebastian thinks the Rhode Island Red may be the best chicken for him to raise, so he can provide eggs for his growing, tight-knit family.
"It was developed in America, has a good temperament, and lays plenty of eggs," he said.
With his mom and dad and siblings Benjamin, 9, Ethney, 7, Aidan, 4, and newborn Samuel, "We have a big family," he added, with Sebastian being the eldest child.
"My one brother Benjamin is really interested in becoming my right-hand man. We've always had a close relationship as brothers. I enjoy my relationship with him," he said. "I'm really proud my siblings are who they are."
Smiling, Benjamin agreed that he is excited about the possibility of raising chickens with his brother.
The boys are "adamant about where their food is coming from," their mom added.
One night, the boys wouldn't allow her to buy store-bought eggs, after seeing a show about how they are manufactured.
Driving in the car, "They were in chorus saying, 'We're not going to eat those eggs,'" Mrs. Anastasi said, chuckling.
After giving birth to Samuel last month, Sebastian has been "a big help" in the family garden, his mom noted. "He's out there with the tiller. It's a big job for a 12-year-old."
"We love to get our food sources locally as much as possible instead of big, agri-business type stuff," added his dad.
"We don't use any chemical products in our house anymore. We make our laundry soap and toothpaste," his wife said. "My in-laws are always coming over and asking, 'What do you use that for?'"
It's all "baby steps" towards sustainable living, she said. She tells her eldest boys that "We have to do what we can do with what we have."
Sebastian is excited about the possibilities in doing his, adding that his favorite egg recipe is Russian custard, with honey, nuts and some fruit. "It's very delicious," he said.
The chicken operation wouldn't have to be very big, Sebastian said. There would be no roosters, but hens, in the coop.
"People have concerns of a chicken coop being an eyesore, but it's not anymore than a chained up dog," he said. "There are free designs online, some of them are pretty fancy."
About 20 of the Anastasis' friends and neighbors support Sebastian's vision.
"Only a fraction want to raise chickens," the boy stated. The ordinance would have property restrictions, and "The first year of raising backyard chickens is about $1,000," he noted.
Sebastian is up to the task, which will also require a one-day course about raising the chickens, he said.
"Sebastian is quite passionate," his mom said. "He has been very engaged in the whole process. He retains a lot of information. He's a sweet boy."
"I'm very proud of him," his dad added. "I have nothing but kudos for the town council for making the extra effort."
Published April 21, 2012, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.