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What’s the Squawk about Backyard Chickens?

What’s the Squawk about Backyard Chickens?
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You can keepchickens in your backyard in New York City or Vancouver, B.C. Raising a small flock of poultry is popular in sunny Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Kingston, Ontario.

The number of communities allowing backyard hens keeps growing, but not every community welcomes the egg-laying critters. One woman who loves her hens lives in two communities. She’s the aunt of one of my Care2 Causes colleagues. Here is her story:

There’s a city ordinance where she lives that you can’t keep chickens on your property, but her property backs up to the next town (where you CAN have chickens), so she keeps them just over her property line. Her neighbor called the cops about it once, and she took them back in her yard so they could clearly see that the chickens were not, in fact, in her town.

Urban Hens and Food Security

All around North America municipalities are struggling with the issue of backyard chickens. Jaelithe Judy wrote two years ago:

And as the urban chicken trend gains ground, city officials are finding it harder and harder to say no to backyard hens. Locavores who want to lower their eggs’ carbon footprint, environmentalists who want to reconnect with the land, libertarians who want to live self-sufficiently, animal lovers who oppose factory farming and foodies who just prefer the taste of fresh, homegrown eggs have all joined the ranks of the urban chicken movement. Even Martha Stewart is a proud suburban chicken owner.

Clearly, keeping chickens in residential yards has gone mainstream. But urban chickens aren’t just the latest fashionable pet trend according to many advocates of urban farming, the growing popularity of backyard flocks could make real, positive impact on the sustainability and resilience of our food system.

Of course, food security and the pleasures of just-laid eggs are only part of what municipalities and neighborhoods are taking into account as they debate the issues. They are also discussing animal welfare, predators, noise and sanitation.

Next: Animal Welfare

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All photos via Flickr Creative Commons: Chicken coop photo from rebecca.shiraev@sbcglobal.net; coyote photo from daveynin; silkie hen photo from Danny Doxtator; white chickens photo from www.thegoodlifefrance.com

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120 comments

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3:58PM PDT on Apr 2, 2013

My friend and I were going to go into chicken keeping together - but before we got them her husband accidentally demolished the coop!

8:57AM PDT on Aug 8, 2012

As long as they are well-treated, I don't see the harm.

7:56AM PDT on Jul 28, 2012

Something not discussed in the article is the prejudice against anything even slightly appearing to be "rural". Raising chickens, growing vegetables or tearing out the ubiquitous patch of front lawn for blueberry bushes upsets the division between city (read "middle-class") and country (read "rural poor" or "dirt-scratchers")

I saw it in my relatives who were embarrassed by my grandfather's beautiful tomatoes and I've seen it in my little suburb when people complained about the sound of a neighbor's rooster. That sound sold me on moving here and I sorely miss it!

3:18AM PDT on Jul 25, 2012

Kind of makes you wonder how many end up in a fighting ring.

9:59PM PDT on Jul 22, 2012

People should be allowed to have hens as long as they follow simple rules on sanitation (like controlling spilled feed to not attract rodents), and taking care of the chickens themselves properly so there isn't odor issues or even animal neglect problems. Good article.

7:58AM PDT on Jul 22, 2012

thanks

6:42PM PDT on Jul 21, 2012

Thanks for the good article

4:44PM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

A funny thing happened on my way to my newly built chicken coop, now all of our residents want one. I have 24 layers, and a dozen fryers. We feed the lot with the spoiled food from our community food bank. I built the new coop from recycled materials, lumber, wire fencing, and stake posts, with pieces of rebar driven every few inches to keep the Havalinas and coyotes out of the yard.

Fortunately, I live in an Intentional Community and we have 160 acres of freedom, solar and wind powered freedom. We even produce our own fuel, BioDiesel.

By the way, ON ONE wants a rooster, I find that a bit odd, don't you?

2:25PM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

I used to have about thirty gamecocks and gamehens. I never fought the roosters and blunted their spurs so they couldn't hurt each other if they fought, which they sometimes would if it rained, their feathers got wet and the roosters did not recognize their siblings. (they normally won't fight with those roosters they were raised with) I kept them because they are the most beautiful, most colorful chicken varieties in the world. It was wonderful to have them around and their eggs were more nutritious than the store bought kind.

11:29AM PDT on Jul 20, 2012

I live in Hawaii where feral chickens are everywhere. I feed them so they stick around my yard. They also love the mangos that fall from the tree. I don't collect eggs because I don't have a coup so they reproduce like crazy. Their biggest predator is the neighborhood kids who catch the roosters to use for fighting. Makes me sad to think about it. I name all my chickens after English royalty or drag queens. They eat all the bugs, even centipedes. I love my chickens.

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