Monday, July 28, 2008

on chickens crossing the road

Rediscovered this photo I took while at the Newseum in Washington, DC, last month (click to see the full picture).

all about the chickens

EDITORS NOTE: My posts will likely be slowing over the next couple weeks as we go on our longest vacation ever, a road trip up to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. I'll have my c and laptop with me so you can rest assured I'll be posting to my Flickr stream.

I'll do my best to share any chicken-related adventures here in the blog, too. Until then, may you be flooded in eggs!

(and wish our chicken-sitter luck!)

Friday, July 25, 2008

Are urban chickens really "pets"?

Is it accurate to call a small flock of chickens in your backyard your "pets?"

On the one hand, it seems easy to quickly answer "yes, they are." But if we're to honor the wisdom of the wiki-editors over at Wikipedia, a pet is:
A pet or companion animal is an animal kept for companionship and enjoyment, as opposed to livestock, laboratory animals, working animals or sport animals, which are kept for economic reasons. The most popular pets are noted for their loyal or playful characteristics, for their attractive appearance, or for their song. Pets also generally seem to provide their owners with non-trivial health benefits; keeping pets has been shown to help relieve stress to those who like having animals around.
When I see the main defining characteristic in the "as opposed to" list as being kept for economic reasons, my chickens fail the definition. But when I look at the characteristics of "the most popular pets" I see my own chickens fulfilling each one. And the health benefits of keeping chickens for the privilege of consuming their eggs can't be understated. At least until they're too old to lay. Hmmm.

More practically, it looks like the folks over in Clay, Alabama are struggling mightily with the issue of chickens as pets.
The city's low density residential zoning does not allow livestock but does allow household pets. The ordinance does not define household pets. Commissioner Debby Clayton said the Alabama Law Code does not define pets either and does not include poultry in livestock. In one section, the law says "livestock is defined as equine or equidae, cows, swine, goats, and sheep."
oops, someone forgot about the chickens (and ducks and geese and...)

Maybe they didn't forget about poultry when writing the code and instead are sending a clear signal that urban chickens, even low-density residential chickens, shouldn't be prohibited. Given the biggest complaints about the chickens in Clay are due to the noise the roosters make, I'm inclined to think the code was unintentionally incomplete in banning roosters.

Maybe we can help the Clay commission settle this: are chickens to be considered pets? if not, what are they?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Portland Tour de Coops this Saturday!

Wow, I wish we had a vibrant urban chicken scene here in the Bay Area like they've got going on up in Portland.

Back in March, they had Chicken Fest and this coming Saturday (11a-3p) is the 5th Annual Portland Tour de Coops.

If you attend, you can visit 18 coops on a bicycle tour and enter a raffle to win your own coop! (see link above for details)

So jealous.

And trying not to be too disappointed that my timing for passing through Portland on our road trip to Canada means I'll miss the Tour by a week!

(any chicken-related goings-on in Portland on July 31/Aug 1? let me know as I'll be in the area)

Help Bring "Mad City Chickens" to San Francisco

As we all know (or at least we should know), the Documentary Mad City Chickens premiered at this year's Wisconsin Film Festival to much applause and acclaim. Wouldn't you like to see it yourself?

Now, the producers are submitting the film to other festivals throughout the country and the world. If you'd like to see the documentary screened at a festival near you, you'll need to provide a little help by expressing interest in the film to the Festival screening folks.

As you can imagine, I'm most interested in getting a screening of Mad City Chickens added to the San Francisco Documentary Festival which takes place October 10-23 here in SF.

Robert and the folks at Tarazod have already submitted the film for consideration (deadline was earlier this month).

UPDATE: Turns out the festival folks aren't interested in hearing from us as they think it's something that Tarazod's put us up to. (see YL's comment below) So, thinking it might actually hurt MCC's chances of getting here to SF, please don't contact the festival folks.

I'm so disappointed to see it's such an opaque selection process.

In the meantime, any other folks know of a grassroots way to help get the film in?

so now it's up to us to help convince the judges to include MCC in the lineup.

A film's chances of getting in to any festival are helped if folks express a strong interest in seeing it, and I'd encourage you to join me in expressing such interest.

Below is the email I've sent to the kind folks running the festival (at and I invite you to cut-n-paste it into your own email program to send along in support (bolded bits should be replaced with your own personal details):

Dear Festival Coordinator,

I've learned that the documentary Mad City Chickens has been submitted for inclusion in the San Francisco Documentary Festival. As an owner/enthusiast of urban chickens here in Redwood City just south of you, I'd love to be able to see a screening of the film here in SF.

As reported in the SF Examiner and in the SF Chronicle, there are quite a few of us in the Bay Area who have chickens in our backyard, so I'm sure the showing would sell out quickly if you did screen Mad City Chickens.

Thanks for your consideration, please let me know if there's anything else I can do to help your decision.

Best Regards,
Thomas Kriese

Even if you're not in the Bay Area, can you help us out by sending your own note to If we're successful in getting it added to the Festival, I'll buy the popcorn for every urbanchickens reader who joins me at the screening.

Thanks, in advance, for your help. And keep your fingers crossed!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

chickens are like a gateway drug?

So, for the umpteenth time, I've just finished reading another online article/post describing the inherent bias against legalizing urban chickens as being based on precedence. The latest comes in a post over on Hispanic Trending, a blog dedicated to Latino Marketing & Advertising:
Councilman Linwood Mann said he has heard from many constituents who don't want chickens as neighbors. They worry, he said, that newcomers from rural areas of Latin America will bring in their own favorite farm animals.

"This is just one of many ordinances put on the book to help people trying to live in harmony," Mann said. "So far, it has worked very well."

Tony Asion, executive director of El Pueblo, a Latino advocacy group in Raleigh, was mystified.

"What in the world would make them think that all Latinos want to have chickens in their backyard?" Asion asked. "Here's the deal: It has nothing to do with culture. It has to do with where you came from. If you came from a rural area where you had animals in your back yard, that's what you're used to. The same is true in the United States. Maybe in rural Alabama they might have them, but not in Montgomery. I don't think this has anything to do with ethnicity."
These biases all seem run along the lines of "well, if we let chickens in here, pretty soon we'll have goats and pigs and horses and cows and..." Yes, hyperbole runs rampant, but I've heard this kind of reasoning before somewhere.

[Almost exactly a year ago (coincidentally?) I posted about a similar dust up in the DC suburbs reported by the Washington Post. And while there are parallels in the ethnic target, I'd rather not touch the not-so-subtly racist aspects of the arguments in this post.]

Oh yeah, the hyperbolic argument is the same argument that's used to discourage changing anything because of the slippery slope that we'd unknowlingly slide all the way down to the nasty worst-case bottom. Kinda like sex ed is the gateway to teen promiscuity. Or marijuana is the gateway to cocaine abuse. (or credit cards are the gateway to bankruptcy?)

I'd better watch out or soon I'll have a backyard full of promiscuous drug-addicted cattle in my backyard. How will I ever stop myself? ;^)

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wake Forest urban chicken update

Nice to see Em's letter is generating some Mainstream Media coverage of the urban chicken issue, too. Here's the segment from NBC-17's news coverage:

Thanks to David Bissette of Catawba Converticoops for alerting me to the video on his WFChickens blog (now on my blog roll).

David's Catawba site's got some great info on building a coop, AND you can sign up to receive his (and Mitzi's) entertaining AND informative eBook "How Two City Slickers Got Chickens Inside the Town Limits":
Growing up as an only child in the country of North Carolina’s Brushy Mountain foothills, I had some best friends even though the nearest kid my age was a quarter mile away. Tex the Rooster and his flock of Ameraucana hens provided me with hours of entertainment. Each chicken had its own personality. Tex would even follow me around like a dog and would hitch a ride in my backpack when I walked down to the pond.

30 years later, those fond memories are still intact. I have three children of my own now. We live one block from downtown and the former Wake Forest College in the heart of our town’s historic district. Short of selling the house and moving to the country, how could my wife and I have urban chickens in a town with regulations and laws about the keeping of livestock inside the town limits?

This eBook is about how we did it.
So visit Catawba Converticoops today to get your copy. Nice to see David's such an advocate for Urban Chickens, too!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bucky Buckaw's second Backyard Chicken Broadcast

Yikes, can't believe it's taken me this long to share the news... The folks over at Deconstructing Dinner have put up another episode of Bucky Buckaw's Backyard Chicken Broadcast.

In this episode, Bucky covers
  • Breeds
  • Cleanliness
  • Poop
  • Pre-Manufactured Chicken Coops
  • The Economics of Commercial Backyard Chickening
As with the first episode, this one's both informing and entertaining and well worth the listen.

update: urban chickens now legal in Winona, MN

Back in January, I'd blogged about the struggle to update urban chicken ordinances in places like Winona and how the struggle seemed to follow a pattern (see the original post for details).

I'm happy to see (thanks, ponylass!) that Winona has broken the cycle and on July 8, by a vote of 5-1, the city council approved keeping chickens as pets.

From the Winona Radio web site:
It's ok to keep chickens as pets after Monday's Winona City Council's meeting.

The council voted 5 to 1 in favor of allowing chickens within the city limits.

Stacy Blair Nelson of Winona has pet chickens and was one of several people who spoke in favor of the ordinance during a public hearing. Nelson said the birds are a beloved part of the family, like any other pet, and a great source of fresh eggs.

Council member Tim Breeza voted against the ordinance.

The changes will limit the number of chickens to 12, no roosters, no slaughter, and they must live outdoors.
Can't wait to start reading the blogs of urban chicken owners in Winona!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

urban chickens in Wake Forest, NC

Em has written a great article published on to help folks in Wake Forest, NC (pop ~23,000, see larger map) learn the benefits of keeping urban chickens and how they can help her petition to ease the rules around keeping chickens in city limits.

The benefits she outlines are ones we urban chicken farmers already know well and are applicable to any municipality: eggs, fertilizer, companionship.

I think Em's created a great template for anyone to send in to their local paper to help get the word out to folks that urban chickens aren't miniaturized versions of the dirty/smelly/messy Big Ag operations where hundreds of thousands of chickens are kept under one big roof (usually upwind from wherever you've noticed them).

If you'd like to help Em and other potential and existing Wake Forest urban chicken farmers out, please sign their petition!

Great job, Em, keep us posted on your progress!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

roundup: urban chickens in the news

I've been away on travel and came home to find a whole bunch of news items regarding urban chickens in my mailbox. Here's a quick overview of urban chicken news from all over the USA (geographic names linked to sources):
  • Arkansas: legality of owning hens varies from city to city while roosters seem universally banned. A resident in Green Forest actually paid for radio ads encouraging neighbors to ban urban chickens altogether!
  • Asheville, NC: Trying to change law to allow chickens as close as 25 feet to neighbors (current law requires 100 feet), limit to nine hens per household and no roosters. You can subscribe to the forum to follow along.
  • Colorado Springs, CO: celebrating the spread of backyard chicken farming. Up to ten hens allowed in city limits. Longmont considering following Ft Collins (see above) in dropping their bans.
  • Ft Collins, CO: City Council to vote in September whether to allow up to six chickens per household within city limits. Chickens may need licenses (just like cats and dogs)
  • Houston, TX: a cautionary tale of following the rules on keeping chickens in the city limits or face forfeiture of your flock.
  • Lexington, KY: Highlighting the Waynes family's experience raising urban chickens as part of the larger urban chickens movement (that's us!)
  • Lihue, HI: urban chickens of another sort: feral chickens all over the island of Kauai. The story hypothesizes how they got there (hurricane aftermath?) and what's being done to try to cull the several-thousand-strong flock.
  • Salt Lake City, UT: a run-down on the June 28 "Tour de coops" in which 100 people toured coops across the city. No word on how much overlap there was between the tour takers and the 80 people who attended an urban chickens workshop earlier in the week put on by the Wasatch Community Gardens.
If I didn't know any better, I'd say keeping urban chickens is quite the widespread phenomenon and not some obscure indulgence as others might make it out to be!


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