Complete the following statement: “Everything I know about chickens I learned from…”
Unfortunately, for too many suburbanites, the statement would end with “Watching the Beverly Hillbillies”.
Throughout our society, basic skills of food growing and preserving have been eroding every decade as more and more people make use of factory-farmed animals and assembly-line food. A side-effect of this is a lack of personal skill nad experience, making people generally less able to determine the accuracy and validity of things they’ve been told.
This is especially true in dealing with someone whose primary experience with chickens is having been downwind of a major chicken production facility with three-to-five hundred thousand birds and somehow thinking that this relates to three-to-five individual birds in a backyard.
Frequently-raised objections (with brief comment in parenthesis) include:
Noise (no roosters allowed = no noise problem)
- Smell (A typical backyard flock produces less waste than a medium breed dog. Smell issues don’t arise from healthy chickens, which is what you want if you want healthy eggs; they come from un-cleaned coops. Just as dog owners have to regularly clean up their yards, so too do chicken owners have to periodically clean their coops.)
- Property values (7 of 10 cities–yes, urban areas–in Forbes’ Magazine’s 2010 list of “America’s Most Livable Cities” allow backyard chickens!)
- Extra cost to the village (Based on municipalities across the country, this is a non-issue. Compare the official response to the report of a large breed dog running loose in a residential neighborhood with a report of a stray, fluffy chicken sleeping under a neighbor’s bush.)
Attracting rodents (As with the bird feeders already in use throughout a typical neighborhood, the main supply of chicken feed should be kept indoors, or in a metal container with a secure lid. Is there a widespread rodent problem from the feeding of cardinals and finches? These are just different birds!)
- Bird flu (Healthy birds, checked every day when fed, are much more disease resistant than factory-farmed birds that never see the sun, get no fresh air, get no exercise, and live in filthy conditions. It is also much easier to see if a backyard bird has a problem than determining which bird(s) of 300,000 are ill.)
- Chickens are “farm” animals (This happened with the explosion of the suburbs after WWII and the adoption of new zoning concepts. Chickens have always been with people in cities and villages, and in fact are legal in the three biggest cities in the US, and in five of the top ten?!)
Our lot sizes are too small (Decades of successful backyard micro-flocks in cities and villages all across the country prove otherwise. Chicago city lots sizes of 25′ x 125′ typically leave only a 20′ x 20′ backyard; the birds [and relations with neighbors] THRIVE.)
- Attracts predators (They’re already here! Raccoons, possums, and skunks traipse through our yards every night while we sleep. Coyotes are frequently sighted in our area.)
- Roosters are required if you want eggs from the hens. (Nope! They never need a rooster to lay eggs.)
- Chickens don’t make good pets (Actually, for some people, they do!)
…and oh so much more! The good news is that because the practice of backyard chicken keeping is so established, solid answers to all objections are readily available (and verifiable).
- Backyard Chicken Crazy (dreambles.wordpress.com)
- F.A.Q. about the backyard chicken boom (eatocracy.cnn.com)
- A Fresh Egg a Day Keeps the Doctor Away – A Guide to Raising Backyard Chickens (farmtek.wordpress.com)
- Debate over backyard chickens brews in Arlington (wjla.com)
- Reinventing urban agriculture (news4jax.com)
- New pecking order for US chickens: backyard city coops (vancouverdesi.com)
- Owning chickens and the art of self-sufficiency (savingsnewstoday.co.uk)
- 3 little hens (thisfrenchfarmhouse.com)