Nature verses the local grocery...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Chicken Tracks in the City

The economy is working to pull itself out of the sewer while Americans struggle with their increasing budgets and disappearing dollar values. Chickens to the rescue?

As nostalgia reminds us, chickens and other friendly critters in our backyards, used to be everyday fare. An increasing number of homeowners are choosing to raise a couple of hens in their backyards again, to offset their food budgets. A reasonable choice you say? ‘Reasonable’…may be subjective. Some city councils are raising their hackles at the thought of bringing the ‘farm’ to town!

Rob Ludlow, who runs www.backyardchickens.com, has a following of over 10,000 who agree that keeping a couple hens in the backyard is just good sense. “People are realizing chickens are a multipurpose pet. They eat bugs and weeds; they’re really fun to watch. And how many pets make you breakfast?” he was quoted in a 2008 article by Dave Phillips.



Research shows that the city councils that prefer to keep their cities ‘chicken-free’, such as New Haven, Connecticut, are no longer the leading edge of the chicken – yes or no – issue. Peter Applebome, a New Haven writer throws around this issue in his article of April, 2009, Envisioning the End of ‘Don’t Cluck, Don’t Tell. He brought out some research by Jennifer Blecha from her doctoral dissertation that said…53 (cities) allow hens, 16 prohibit them and 9 make no mention.”

In Salem, Oregon, the noble fight continues for the lowly chicken. Nick Timiraos writes in the Wall Street Journal, July 15, 2009, Some City Folk are Mad as Wet Hens When Chickens Come Home to Roost. He states in his article that Randall Burkey Co., a Boerne, Texas, hatchery, “…credits a doubling of small orders for chickens and supplies in urban and suburban areas…” Mayor Janet Taylor is “…guardedly supportive of the measure and ready to vote…” says Timiraos.

Trevor Hughes in USA Today says New York City, Los Angeles, Portland, Oregon and Seattle allow a maximum of 5 hens (no roosters). “Longmont, Colorado, city planner Ben Ortiz says elected officials in his city of about 85,000 near Fort Collins are considering whether to let residents raise chickens. Ortiz says many residents have cited financial sustainability as a major reason. ‘There may be some pent-up demand for this kind of thing.’ ”

The current thinking on ‘city chickens’ seems to be increasingly in favor of the quiet critters with the edible side product; the sinking economy seems to be the major catalyst. Cities such as Fort Collins; Missoula, Montana; South Portland, Maine and Ann Arbor, Michigan are successfully removing chicken ban ordinances. How goes it in your city? If you are considering bending the ears of your city council on this issue, here is some ammunition. Keep in mind that dogs are allowed in most cities. Here are a few comparisons:

Dogs bark; chickens quietly cluck – occasionally.
Dogs leap fences; chickens stay cooped – with the help of an occasional wing-clip.
Dog poo is pretty stinky; chicken poo grows beautiful gardens and other green things.
Dogs give Love – absolutely; chickens make quiet, Lovable pets as well – AND – give about an egg-a-day!
Dogs chew up ‘stuff’; chickens chew up all flavors of insects – usually the kinds that live in your garden!
Dogs die; chickens die too, but sometimes make it to the soup pot along the way.

Mother Earth News says, "Eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:

1⁄3 less cholesterol
1⁄4 less saturated fat
2⁄3 more vitamin A
2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
3 times more vitamin E
7 times more beta carotene"

Eggs are close to being a perfect food. According to the American Egg Board,
"Eggs are a naturally nutrient-dense food, which means they have a high proportion of nutrients to calories. One large egg has only 75 calories and provides 13 essential nutrients in varying amounts. Eggs are an excellent source of choline and a good source of the highest quality protein and riboflavin. Many of the egg’s incredible nutrients are found in the egg yolk, including choline, folate, lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin D. The yolk also includes healthy monosaturated and polyunsaturated fats and almost half of the high-quality protein found in eggs."

This is an example of a well researched, documented presentation to a city council supporting chicken-keeping in city limits.

In the end, life boils down to the basics of food, water and Love – according to most of the literature. While Washington goes about its own flavor of ‘economic stimulus’, we folks on the lower end of the food chain have to take more control of what and how we eat with a tighter and tighter budget in mind. Egg-laying hens are an economically feasible choice, a choice that… just makes tasty, wholesome sense!

As always, Nature prevails.