No, no. Not that kind. The chicken fight I’m referring to is the fight over whether or not chickens should be allowed in city limits, as backyard pets.
In our community, the subject is repeatedly being addressed by the city as they change the ordinance and then change the ordinance again. Chickens are allowed. Chickens are not allowed. Chickens are allowed! You can have 15 chickens! Chickens are not allowed…we keep hearing different things.
Just when I start to think it’s settled, I hear the city is about to change the ordinance again. So we wait. My three small children and I, we wait, to hear if we can keep our 3 chickens. We wait and I’ll admit, we worry, because we’ve actually become quite attached to our fowly friends.
I have a sneaking suspicion I know why the city is having to take the time to revisit this ordinance, and it’s not because there are dangers to having chickens in the city. Most likely, they are being forced to revisit this because he who…bawks…loudest gets the most attention. Or rather, the few who are avidly against the ownership of chickens in the city are complaining a lot and those who have chickens or don’t really mind others having chickens are a quieter sort.
Or, in my case, a busier sort.
I don’t have a lot of time to fight this particular battle and I wish I did not have to fight it. I’m a peace-loving girl and I like to be liked. We get along with our neighbors well and have had no issues in the past. That is, until I started going through the permit process to obtain three chickens for our large fenced in backyard with a closed in coop. During that process, the police are required to come to ask the neighbors if they’re comfortable with chickens living nearby. The police officer in our “case”, neglected to ask the neighbor directly to the back of us. Most likely this is because our two houses sit quite a distance from each other and our back yards are each fenced in with about twelve feet of space between them due to electric poles that run through our neighborhood.
So, the issue became an issue. I received a phone call from this upset neighbor who started in about our permit before telling me who he was or why he was calling. I was calm, a bit confused and I simply responded with my perspective. I had never met this person before and had no idea who was living behind us. We’ve come to know the neighbors on our street because they were kind enough to introduce themselves back when we moved in over two and a half years ago. But this initial introduction was not going well and it was upsetting. I had the clarity of mind somehow (I don’t like confrontation at all) to ask what the concerns were and the response was simply, farm animals should not be in the city, what is next? what if your neighbors think it’s cool and they all get chickens and pretty soon it’s loud and stinky?
My answer? Well, I don’t really see how that could happen. Not that many people are interested in having chickens and very few of them have the kind of yard and coop that we have, the kind that would pass the city’s very thorough test including a visit from police, photos and a discussion at a city council meeting. Hardly anyone even has a fence, actually.
I wanted to add something about the farm animals and “what’s next?” thing, but I did not. It’s just that I doubt horses or cows or sheep are going to be approved as city dwellers.
Since that conversation, I’ve been informed several times that we may not be able to keep our chickens because the ordinance is being reconsidered. But no one has come to tell me to get rid of my chickens, for quite some time now. I have a permit sitting next to me on my desk and I will assume that what it says is true. That I have complied and that I have a one year permit ending on June 4, 2013.
I’m sharing this story today in an effort to educate. Not all of us know a whole lot about chickens. Not all of us understand why a person would want to own them. Sometimes it helps to be informed and sometimes it doesn’t, but here it goes…
- Chickens give us free eggs
- Chickens eat bugs!
- Chickens aerate the earth
- Chickens are quiet (we’re not talking about roosters. Roosters are against the rules.)
- Chickens do not smell unless they are enclosed and their owners do not care for them properly (that is not the case with us)
- Caring for chickens is a great way to teach kiddos responsibility
Misinformation about chickens:
Chickens frequently carry disease. – Chickens are actually quite clean and safe if cared for properly. If their coops are refreshed weekly, they have no more disease than a dog or cat.
This is a new hip trend in which chickens will take over urban centers everywhere. – Actually, up to the 1950s, many housewives would keep chickens to provide “egg money”, in the city. The trend simply waned because of convenience food. Now, we’re revisiting the benefits and finding it wasn’t a bad idea to raise free range chickens void of hormones and other processed food chemicals. The chance that the majority of city-dwellers will decide that they want chickens is slim. Chickens need a secure environment and a safe place to roost at night. They also need daily feeding and watering and bedding changes. Just as not every home-owner wants to own a ferret or a gerbil, many will not want to own chickens.
Chickens are mean – Chickens race up to you, heads bobbing from side to side because they want to know if you have food. Roosters can be aggressive, but chickens are often docile, especially if you research docile breeds, which we did.
Chickens will fly over fences and be all over town – I will admit, one of our chickens got out. Twice. It was our fault. That chicken stayed very near our home, but wandered about, looking for its sisters. Our neighbor called the police. My mom was here and by the time she and the police officer checked outside, the chicken had found its way back in. We discovered that my husband had forgotten to replace a board that was originally between our house and fence while he was landscaping. Accidents happen. The board is back now and the chickens have not tried to fly up and over anything. Ever. They are now full grown and interested in their coop, their food and the people they know, that live here, in our house. They can’t even fly very high. Since they’re chickens.
Another next door neighbor asked me recently, When are you going to get those chickens? Um, I said. We’ve had them for about three months! What, he said. I had no idea! I breathed a sigh of relief because the last thing I want to do is irritate my neighbors with sounds or smells. And our coop is up against our fence on the side of our yard that is next to his house! Obviously our feathery friends have not been too terribly loud or smelly.
Lastly, I sheepishly admit I’m just kind of sad about this, and maybe a little confused. Sometimes it’s hard for me to understand how people get so focused on and frustrated about what seems like a small thing. I guess I just wish we could worry about bigger issues. You know, like, people who don’t have much of anything at all or the way cancer is threatening to kill 1 in 3 of us. Just imagine if we put this energy there?
Now, because of the chicken fight focus being on us, we might lose our pets. I had no idea I would love having chickens this much. We’ve all grown attached to them and their three unique little personalities. We take good care of them and sitting outside watching them in our private backyard is one of our favorite things to do…it feels peaceful, watching them wander and peck. Its’ hard to explain. We love that our kids are learning to care for something small and in need of our help. It’s a good place to start teaching them to care for all of the world around them. We do that in many other ways, but this is a daily way that we all enjoy.
It’s frustrating to feel watched, it infringes on our peace of mind. We are careful and considerate people. We understand that living in community means we won’t love everything our neighbors decide to do. We’re busy, working and raising our children and I sure wish this didn’t have to be a distraction from that.
Maybe if I had more time, I’d call the police when our backyard neighbor’s dog barks incessantly. But I don’t. A girl has to know what battles are worth her time and energy and besides, a bark is usually not actually worse than a bite.
A bawk isn’t that bad either, it’s actually pretty quiet. It’s the bite of a watchful fighter and their rigid opinion that hurts.
Dear city, please consider these words as you make your decisions about ordinances. I don’t need or want to have a chicken fight. I only hope you’ll use common sense rather than caving to the loudest bark. Thank you for your time.