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We cannot allow this to stand.

"CHICAGO (AP) — The City Council is poised to send a message to residents: We don’t want your clucking chickens.

up for a vote Wednesday is a proposal to ban chickens, a former
barnyard denizen that is pecking its way into cities across the country
as part of a growing organic food trend among young professionals and
other urban dwellers."

The lame-ass excuse–and I am not making this up–is that:

"This past summer I started hearing that residents were letting
chickens out of their yard and they were leaving poop and mice were
feeding off of it," said Alderman Lona Lane.

That’s right.  If we let people have chickens in their backyard, mice might come along and eat the chicken shit.

Now, what the nice alderman meant to say is that mice could eat the chicken food–grains and so forth.  But of course, mice would also be drawn to any number of other kinds of pet food, not to mention human food.  Shall we ban bakeries because mice might snatch the bread crumbs?

Then there are "concerns about parasites the birds might carry, and the possibility
that they could transmit bird flu if it makes its way to the U.S."  As if a few backyard hens in Chicago are going to be our biggest problem if we have a serious avian flu outbreak.

Concerns about noise get raised as well–and roosters can be loud, which is why sensible city ordinances can regulate noisy roosters the same way they regulate other loud animals like–oh, I don’t know–dogs?

Ask anyone who was a young adult around the time of World War II, and you’ll find that backyard hens were an ordinary part of neighborhood life back then.  Regulating the number of chickens, limiting or banning roosters, and requiring that the birds be properly cared for is all part of the city’s job.  They should treat chicken owners the same way they treat dog owners-a little light regulation, and a few laws on the books to fall back on if things get out of hand. But beyond that,  the  city has no business keeping its residents from their freshly-laid eggs.

The vote has been postponed–I’ll add updates as I get them, but…Go here to contact Chicago’s aldermen (alderwomen?  whatever.) or just contact the office of the mayor right here.


  1. I don’t want to live in any culture that doesn’t tolerate children, dogs, or chickens.

    That’s why I don’t live in suburban New Jersey, where I grew up. Because those people know nothing about nothing. You can’t even walk a dog in the local park! You get a TICKET if you bring a dog with you. And in the middle of my mother’s fancy-ass condo development, there used to be a fantastic grassy area where the kids used to play. So what did the homeowner’s association do? Planted the joint with loads of spiky evergreens in order to keep the kids away, because God forbid something so uncontrolled as a child running around occur in this place.

    And chickens? My God, they’d punt you to Vermont if you ever tried such a thing.

    Let me reiterate: This is the most witless culture on the face of the planet. Chicago ought to be more sophisticated.

  2. My city has long had an ordinance prohibiting the raising of livestock within city limits. That turned into a big issue when pot-bellied pigs were all the rage. Were they pets or livestock?

  3. Livestock, pets–call them whatever you want. A few birds are a few birds. I have no problem with limiting the number of animals one keeps on one’s property (and that includes cats, dogs, and snakes), but to ban chickens outright is insane.

  4. Have any of you ever smelled a chicken coop that is not cleaned on a regular basis? If you think your neighbor’s cat is destructive of your garden wait until their chickens decide to forage in your veggie garden. This is a slippery slope. What next? The family pig? Or goat, or cow? Are they going to slauhter the chickens in the back yard? Are they running an egg business in a residential area? There are going to be some fun zoning meetings.

  5. Funny thing about the slippery slope. Its considered a logical fallacy for a good reason.

    We in Portland get along quite well with chickens in our city. Sure, a couple get lost to dogs now and again. Sure, sometimes they smell.

    But people love them, and neighbors love seeing them run around (its fairly common to see loose chickens now and again). I have two retail chicken feed suppliers in walking distance from the house- chicken raising supports the local economy.

    We should invite a chicken delegation from Chicago over here. The same way we’ve convinced about half of the cities in the US to build streetcars, we could put that Portland PR machine to work for CHICKENS!

  6. In our neighborhood there used to be a rooster crowing, it was far enough away that it was far from a nuisance. It added romance, like the distant train whistle. I would vote for chickens anytime. They are great eaters of ticks, fleas and slugs are they not?

  7. Banning something because it might cause a problem results in banning everything. I’m sure Chicago already has ordinances dealing with odors, noise, and sanitary conditions which can be used to deal with any problem chicken keepers.

  8. This makes me really happy that I live in a rural area where I can have my chickens. They are cheerful, domestic and productive, and there is nothing like a golden fresh laid egg. I grant roosters are a problem. I even know people out here in the country that can’t stand roosters, but we don’t need roosters for eggs. I agree that in an urban area they could be regulated like any other pet. Up with hens!

  9. Tibs said: “Have any of you ever smelled a chicken coop that is not cleaned on a regular basis?”
    LOL! That brings me back to my childhood where the running joke was anything that smelled or tasted “off” was compared to “grandpa’s chicken coop.” My suburban-bred brother and myself sure remembered that particular smell-hell long after my country farmer grandfather sold all his chickens off.
    I will say though that I’d like to have a few cute chickens running around in my city lot – but I’m realistic enough to know they would last long in this busy urban environment.

  10. I have a small backyard flock of hens here in VA. A gentleman across from me has a banty rooster and he (the banty) has a harem. A lady downhill has a few hens also. My flock is the most visible and when I tell passers-by about the other local chickens they always seem surprised. The ladies are certainly audible when they lay, the rooster crows whenever he feels like it, but the neighborhood dogs bark all night and day. I’ve never had anyone complain that my hens were up all night, nor has anyone ever noticed any smell, let alone precious droppings scattered outside the fence. As far as field mice go, the ladies are excellent mousers (which may be a fluke, I’m fairly new to hens), so I’m not too worried about a mouse population explosion here.

    What’s surprised me the most since getting the ladies would be the number of shocking questions I’ve been asked. I never realized so few people had contact with animals that weren’t in a grocery fridge.

  11. I’d like to have a couple of chickens, but I have three cats and a small, very densely planted garden. In short, it wouldn’t be practical. If I were writing an animal ordinance for my city, I would write it as a maximum of x lbs. of (projected or actual adult) live, non-human animal per square foot of property, with exceptions for wild visiting birds, insects and other non-domesticated fauna over which the property owner has essentially no control. I’d also put a maximum number of individual animals per square foot of property. I don’t know what the actual number of animals or pound limit would be, except that it would vary by zoning to permit veterinarians, groomers, kennels and other businesses involving animals to exist in appropriate areas. There would also have to be additional limits on endangered and certain exotic species (No cobras patrolling your fence line!)

    That way, by putting a pound limit and a number limit, but no species, genus or family limit, there wouldn’t be a possibility of your neighbors adopting a baby elephant or having 1000 pet rats in their home. But it would allow someone to have, say, ONE Newfoundland dog, or two parrots and a rabbit, or three chickens, or two iguanas and a Chihuahua, or two teacup pigs, or…

    I think this would be the most sensible way to deal with keeping the largest number of people happy–both the animal lovers and those who don’t want any animals marring their sterile astroturf.

  12. I like the idea of number and weight limits and square foot requirements. Makes sense. Don’t want to live next to 5 Giant Newfoundlands on a 50′ by 100′ lot anymore than I would want to live next to 50 Yorkies or 50 chickens on a 50′ 100′ lot. I think the no farm animals started as a health/snob issue. Theory being that only poor people or recent immigrants (from foreigh countires or rural areas) have chickens, or clotheslines for that matter. If you don’t have any poultry or veggie garden that means you are rich enough to buy all your food at market. 100 years ago they believed dirt = germs, and animals are “dirty”.

  13. Backyard chickens are among the least likely to spread bird flu. See the current issue of Mother Earth News for an in-depth article citing experts world-wide.
    Limits are necessary. Banning backyard flocks, and measures such as a National Animal Identification System(NAIS)are overreactions which will do nothing at all to increase our health and safety.

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