Tuesday, July 14, 2009

you want chickens? get a farm!

The Wall Street Journal today has an article about urban chickens structured around the effort to legalize them in Salem, Oregon.

The article's author, Nick Timiraos, does a good job of providing color to the struggles that Barbara Palermo, Nancy Baker-Krofft and others are enduring while trying to convince city councilors to allow homeowners to have three hens in enclosed coops. (Salem's City Council remains divided on the issue, but it seems a vote is imminent, and the Mayor's in support of the measure).

What I find most interesting about the story is the new forms of hysteria drummed up by the decidedly anti-chicken crowd of Salem.

"What's next? Goats? Llamas? Get a farm." says Terri Frohnmayer, a co-chairwoman of one of Salem's neighborhood associations. Beg pardon? I thought we were talking about chickens here. Let's keep our eye on the ball, shall we?

Salem disallowed residents from keeping livestock, including chickens, in the 1970s when it decided "to be a city and not a rural community," says Chuck Bennett, a Salem City Council member who opposes backyard chickens. So the only thing that's keeping Salem from reverting to a rural community is the absence of eggs in backyards? This satellite view of Salem should quickly dispel any notion that Salem's just one cluck away from being mistaken for a big ol' farm.

It's only more than halfway through the article that we arrive at the meat of the issue:
The biggest concern, however, is that chickens will just lead to more conflicts between chicken owners and neighbors who own more traditional pets, like dogs. "You can just see the conflict associated with the addition of another animal into this kind of [close] environment," says Mr. Bennett, the council member.
It would seem that (some) dog owners are concerned their canines just won't be able to help themselves with chickens next door and, you know, will wind up eating these tasty treats on two legs.

According to Timiraos, Mrs. Frohnmayer (she of the "Get a farm!" advice) "often finds her own springer spaniel sizing up chickens on her neighbor's farm. It's only natural, she says, for her dog to want to eat her neighbor's birds. 'Are they going to put my dog down when it eats one of their chickens?' she says."

Let me take a swipe at the answer to this one:

We won't put your dog down when it trespasses and eats the first chicken, Mrs. Frohnmayer. But if you can't keep your dog off my property and prevent it from eating my pets, you can bet your uncontrollable pooch will be getting a visit from the animal control officer.

Unless, of course, I've followed your advice and your dog trespasses out on my farm. From what I understand about farming, you're allowed to shoot predators to protect your livestock.

Get a farm, indeed.


Victoria Williams said...

That's just INSANE! Our chickens are safe, QUIET, and will give us free EGGS! They also like to sit in our laps. And our dog, Chelsea, is very calm in their presence and doesn't try to eat them. Chickens make great pets. See my blog to see our chickens INDOORS.

feral chick said...

I have indoor chickens too. (They have their own bedroom :). At first it was from necessity, but they really are happier and healthier inside. (I do take them outside every day.)

Wonder how many cockatoos are in Salem. . . .

LuckyDog said...

We came up against the same "helpful" advice from chicken opponents when we were trying to change the law in Caledonia, WI. Let's see - cost of raising a few urban hens vs. cost of buying a 5+ acre property where chickens are permitted. Hmmm....! Our chickens were eventually evicted, but in their last two weeks with us, we let them free range in our yard, and the 7 hens and 2 beagles paid absolutely no attention to each other! I have pictures of beagle and chicken, side by side, peacefully coexisting!

Homegrown Neighbor said...

I have chickens and lots of neighbors with dogs. No problem there, since tall fences keep the dogs out. I do have a friend nearby who used to let his chickens roam his front yard. I was visiting one day when a woman walked by with her dog- who was off leash, which is illegal here in L.A., I believe. The dog saw one of the chickens and zipped into my friend's yard to snap up one of his favorite silkie bantams. I had to witness the thing die in his arms. The dog's owner was very ashamed but there was nothing she could do. The dog should have been on a leash and my friend should have had his chickens behind a fence or in a coop.

But chickens are far less of a nuisance than dogs so it is ridiculous that dogs should be allowed and not chickens. All my neighbors have dogs and I wish they had chickens instead. They wouldn't be nearly as loud.

Sinclair said...

I think the city folks need to get a handle on what really matters in life, and that is FOOD. All urban chic aside, especially in a stressed economy, people should have the right to provide for some of their own food. Hens are quieter than most dogs, and if coops are kept clean, they are not smelly like some farm animals. I am glad I am outside any city limits and am on 2 acres, because my hens free range on one full fenced acre from sun up to sun down every day. They are happy, and my garden prospers from their presence.

Amri Valencia said...

If your dog is vicious, it should be put down (in my not-so-humble opinion). Any animal that kills our birds can expect to shortly leave this world...for good.
What would the dog owners do if, say, someone's pet lion came into their yard and started eating dogs?! Maybe we should outlaw dogs...!

The chicken owners can protect their birds, the dog owners can contain their dogs. Is that really so difficult?

cheezilla said...

Thank you! I was outraged at Mrs. Frohnmayer's idiotic comment as well.

Yippy said...

Sustainability means efficiency and maintenance: urban folk could create cooperatives where by they hire a local farmer to raise their chickens, dispose of feces, process the eggs, slaughter the birds - all without increasing disease vectors, or insinuating a host of disputes around skunks, racoons, dogs, smell and avian flu into your neighborhood. Or shop at your local grower's market!

Pets are a problem everywhere, but dogs are regulated and cats are a scourge to wildlife. Your need to have pet poultry in the city providing you eggs is sweet, but not sustainable.

Unknown said...

Yippy, our definitions of "sustainability" seem to differ, as I'm not sure how your definition includes the cost of transportation/distribution of the co-ops?

Yippy said...

To me, sustainability is something that can continue: not for a year, but for generations.

So, one year raising chickens is no test.
Sustainably raising food - chickens - would include raising their food, too. Otherwise, you're overlooking the "footprint" of growing and shipping that grain. It has to be done, either way, but a cooperative would have one truck deliver a ton of grain, rather that have 100 cars drive to the feed store, etc.

That's my main objection to raising poultry in cities: it was determined not to do that in the past as a result of accumulated issues.

Cooperatives could have a place just outside the city - CSA - Community Supported Agriculture - it a wonderful way to grow your own food...from vegetables and fruit, to poultry, lamb, beef, milk, etc.
Check it out.
check it out.

Bad Wolf said...

What's really insane about Salem is that the much bigger city only 50 miles to the north has been allowing urban flocks for many years and is considered a model for the rest of the country but Salem instead chose obstinate ignorance.

I've also never had a loose chicken come up and bite me drawing blood as a couple dogs have. Chickens have not woken me up with their all-day barking, not one has stolen my food from me in a park during a picnic, they haven't jumped on me leaving muddy tracks all over my best clothes, and they have never tried to keep me from entering my own home... I'm all for limiting dogs to rural farms; or at least the irresponsible dogs' owners (but is that fair to the farmers?).


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