Jordan Green has written a thorough column for Yes! Weekly on the plight of urban chickens in Greensboro, North Carolina (population: ~238,000; see it on a map). Our protagonists, Brian Talbert and Amy Williams, "respectively a school maintenance director and a student at Elon University School of Law, had been keeping three Rhode Island Red hens in the backyard of their home in Greensboro's Lindley Park for several months unbeknownst to most of their neighbors."
And then they had to replace one of their hens, and they chose to get a rooster. And when Elvis (the rooster) began to do what roosters do best, everything seems to have fallen apart from there: the noise complaint, the investigation, the citation, the fighting back (sound familiar to other urban chicken legalization plights?)
What strikes me as the critical faux pas in the whole situation is Talbert and William's decision to introduce a rooster into the backyard mix.
There's a reason most urban chicken ordinances forbid the keeping of roosters in city limits: the noise at dawn (and other parts of the day, but the early crowing tends to be the most annoying). Our Redwood City chickens are mighty quiet (and at their loudest are a lot more quiet than the neighborhood dogs), so even if they were illegal here, I doubt anyone but our direct neighbors would notice them.
But now that Elvis has ratted them out, they're forced to make a decision: the ordinance they've violated technically forbids them having a coop on their property, not the occupants of said coop. So, they could keep their chickens, sans shelter, in the yard, but that's pretty much an invitation for even more trouble with the exposure to predators and the ability to escape into other yards. So they're giving up their chickens.
But the fight doesn't stop there:
For Williams and Talbert, a principle is at stake. By raising their own poultry, they see themselves as circumventing a factory farming system that confines animals to claustrophobic cages and pumps them full of drugs before slaughter. They know at least two other households in Greensboro where chickens are raised. They'll comply with the order, but they want to change it to forge a path so that others can come behind.From the story, it seems there's quite the underground chicken movement in Greensboro.
Here's hoping the movement can come above ground soon, but they'll have to turn the momentum created by the City Council in nearby Chapel Hill.
Last June, a Chapel Hill resident petitioned to amend the town's land use management ordinance to permit chickens in residential neighborhoods. The planning department recommended against changing the current regulations in September, expressing concern in a memo to Town Manager Roger L. Stancil about "incidents with family pets" and opining that "an amendment to the town's ordinances permitting chicken in more residential zoning districts would result in increased land use conflicts between neighbors, involving greater demands on staff resources."
Heaven forbid we create more work.