The other day I was walking over to my neighbor’s house to feed their chickens and collect eggs while they were on vacation. On the way, I heard the familiar sound of happy hens in another backyard. I peered through the slats in the fence and saw a dozen young hens scratching about in their pen. And I know at least a couple other people within a few blocks who keep chickens.
So I thought it was time to check up on the backyard chicken movement. Here’s what’s going on around the country; let us know what’s happening in your neck of the woods.
Oh, and these adorable peeps are my own Eleanor and Dolley back in the day. Ah, how quickly they grow up…
The Longmont, CO city council has just voted to revise its municipal code to allow backyard hens. (They were considering a cat leash ordinance, too. Good lord. No word on that.)
Toronto officials are being persuaded that maybe backyard chickens should be permitted there, too, thanks in part to the efforts of the people behind the website Toronto Chickens. And more charming Toronto chicken stories here.
A blogger at the Dallas Morning News reports on the rising price of eggs and the benefits of backyard hens. I gotta say, backyard hens need to be about more than saving money on eggs. For a while we kept track of our cost-per-egg, but it only takes one coop repair or vet bill to throw it out of whack. (and no, we’re not paying for hip replacements or anything that outlandish–a trip to the bird vet for us means, "We’re pretty sure this is about to be an ex-bird, but we’re not willing to wring its neck ourselves, so if you’ve got an easy fix, do it, otherwise it’s curtains for the chicken." So far, the bird vet has always had a simple fix to what seemed like a fatal chicken problem.)
Our friends in Austin–and how we love our friends in Austin–are keeping backyard chickens, which is just fine by the city council.
Most of the objections to backyard chickens I read in these articles are unfounded:
"People don’t realize how much work it is to raise chickens." Actually, it’s surprisingly easy. Collect eggs, food and water, lock up the coop at night, clean it out once in a while. Really not a big deal. A dog, properly cared for, requires more work for less reward.
"They attract mice." This is, in theory, about the possibility of mice getting into the food. But it’s as easy to seal up a bin of chicken feed as it is to seal up a bin of cat food or, for that matter, your garbage can. Not an issue.
"They’re noisy." Roosters are noisy, but you don’t need a rooster to get eggs. Hens cackle when they lay an egg (wouldn’t you?) but the noise never takes place at night, as hens don’t lay at night, and is certainly no louder than, say, a lawn mower, a crying child, or a barking dog.
"They’ll smell bad." Any animals kept in filth will smell bad. Ever been in the home of a crazy cat lady? Pine shavings and a compost pile to deposit manure are all you need to keep chickens clean.
Anybody out there doing chickens this year?