Thursday, May 28, 2009

Urban Chickens legal, but not yet allowed in Vancouver

Back on March 6, I proudly shared the news that urban chickens were legal in Vancouver, BC. As a North American, I was encouraged to see another big city, albeit north of the border, do the sensible thing and allow urban chickens within city limits.

Little did I know then how big the gap is between "they're legal" and "here's the guidelines as to how they're legal so you can keep them."

In yesterday's Vancouver Sun, Rebecca Tebrake reported that the city staff tasked with creating the report to outline the rules and regulations for keeping chickens won't have a final draft ready to go to council until after its August break.

I'd had visions of newly legal chicks becoming pullets and laying their first eggs this summer in Vancouver. Silly me. Only the illegal Vancouver urban chickens will be laying eggs in the city this year.

I guess I've gotten used to things happening quickly, like with the Longmont Urban Hens success: the council approved chickens on Feb 24 and the permits were made available March 9. Maybe this is an American-ism I've taken for granted.

For those of you living in/familiar with the Great White North, is this procedural delay between "yes you can" and "here's how you can" a Canadian thing? Or is this just something to do with the Vancouver city staff?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Design sources for urban chicken coops

Got an email from someone last night asking where he might get designs for building a coop in his backyard. I'm sharing my response here as I think there might be others asking the same thing.

There are lots of sources for coop design out there, depending on how handy you are with a hammer and nails and whether you need explicit step-by-step instructions or simply a book of inspirational pictures you can create your own plans from.
  1. The Garden Coop -- Step-by-step detailed plans available for download. John Carr's put together a really useful design and done a great job making it accessible to those of us (like me) who have a lot of enthusiasm but not a lot of practice building structures.
  2. BackyardChickens.com Coop Design Gallery -- An online gallery that displays the myriad types of coops owned by the community of backyard/urban chicken owners. The individual coops you'll see range from small to huge, from plain to fancy and from cheap to expensive. The amount of detail behind each coop varies. Some have dimensions and as-we-built-it photo documentation. Others are just the finished product.
  3. Chicken Coops: 45 Building Plans for Housing Your Flock -- a book by Judy Pangman. The title's a bit misleading, but it's still chock full of ideas for coops for your chickens. Use this book more as inspiration for building your own coop, not for plans with a step-by-step guide to building a coop (like the Garden Coop's plans).
Are there other sources for coop design you'd recommend? How did you go about creating your own? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Provo Council Says Yes to Urban Chickens!

Let's hear it for the Provo City Council's ability to work quickly to make urban chickens legal in their city again.

Just a couple weeks ago, I wrote about the Provo Mayor exercising his first veto in years to strike down the urban chickens ordinance passed by the Provo City Council in a 4-3 vote. Mayor Lewis Billings had been in favor of urban chickens yet objected to the implementation of the ordinance. While I agree with Billings's principles, I was disappointed that he had to use his veto as I figured the matter would be lost in months and months of bickering negotiations before urban chickens would make it back to the front burner again.

On May 19, the council passed, by a 6-1 vote, a revised ordinance that dealt with most of the objections of the mayor (there's a simple $15 registration fee, up to six hen chickens -- of all ages -- per residence, etc) leaving only the 15-foot clearance from coop to property line as an issue the mayor wasn't fond of.

The lone holdout this second time around? Council Chair Cynthia Dayton. According to the Daily Herald, Dalton "said she voted against it simply because her constituency had expressed little interest in seeing chickens in their neighborhoods. 'Good luck with your chickens, people in Provo,' Dayton said."

Good luck, indeed. Talk about distancing yourself from an issue.

Seeing the challenges folks are having getting urban chickens legal in Stallings, NC and in Shorewood, WI and in Hollywood, FL, maybe our friends in Provo can share their luck with those less fortunate.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chicken Busters for when urban chickens go wild

The fear of urban chickens run amok seems strong in those who oppose the idea of allowing chickens within city limits.

While I'd like to think that all urban chicken farmers are conscientious enough to care for their flocks for the full life cycle (from egg to bones), the law of averages means at least some chickens will either be evicted (on purpose) or escape (on accident) from their coops and become feral.

Miami, Florida, is a good place to look to see what happens when chickens escape to live on the streets. It's estimated there's over 10,000 feral chickens within city limits, and things finally got so bad that the city government had to step in and do something about it.

Starting in April 2003, the city of Miami deployed the Chicken Busters -- a team of Code Enforcement officers, Firefighters and others -- to round up loose chickens from all around Miami.

How do they do it? Well, "to catch a chicken, you have to think like a chicken."

And the team must be awfully good at thinking like chooks: the Chicken Busters have captured over 6,400 chickens so far and in the process raised over $10,000 for charity.

This MiamiHerald.com video tells their story nicely:


Now, who you gonna call? Just be careful not to cross the streams :^)

Friday, May 8, 2009

Good news: urban chickens vetoed in Provo, Utah

When I wrote about the future of urban chicken advocacy efforts, I espoused a straight-forward "get them legal however you have to, and then work on making the laws more favorable." So it's with mixed emotions that I read that Provo Mayor Lewis Billings vetoed the chicken ordinance passed by the Provo Council before it could go into effect this week.

I admit that when I first read some of the headlines about this in my news reader ("Provo's chicken law on hold" and "Billings balks at Provo chicken ordinance"), I was upset thinking that this one person was going against the will of the people to block chickens in the city.

Moreover, it's the first time Billings has blocked an ordinance since 2007. Now that I've researched the subject, I see he vetoed the ordinance for all the right reasons.

He's not against people owning chickens in the city, he's against the awkward way the Council wrote the ordinance that would allow six urban chickens per household in Provo.

The challenges Billings found in the way the urban chickens ordinance was crafted include:
  • requiring permits for chickens (that would have to renew annually)
  • hiring a part-time chicken coop inspector (at $50,000 per year! -- where do I apply?)
  • distance limits (15-foot distance limit from the property lines)
  • no deference to county health rules in case of an emergency (think: flu outbreak)
And he's asked the council to go back and rewrite the ordinance to make it more reasonable for those wanting chickens in their backyard.

The council originally passed the ordinance 4-3, and they need just a single vote to swing to get the 5 necessary to override Billings's veto.

I hope they do the right thing, though, and re-write the ordinance to make owning chickens easier and more reasonable. Just so long as they make urban chickens legal.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Welcome Marketplace Morning Report Listeners!

I'm happy to report Joel Rose's story Chicken owners seek free range in the city aired this morning on the Marketplace Morning Report.

For those of you coming to the blog after hearing the story, here's a quick orientation to what you'll find here:
If it's info about changing the laws in your own city, I've tagged posts related to that subject over the last two years with the label law so you can easily find them.

And if you're just looking for a book to read in the backyard as you think about having your own hens producing eggs each day for your table, I've recommended nine books for aspiring urban chicken farmers to help you out.

Finally, don't just take my word for how great it is to raise chickens in the city. Visit the blogs in the blog roll to the right or come visit our fans on our Facebook page to get to know who else loves urban chickens.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

calling all San Mateo County urban chicken owners

I'm reaching out to all the readers who live here in San Mateo County (SF Bay Area) to ask you to come join the new San Mateo Chickens Yahoo! group. I know that there's got to be a lot of us in the area because the local feed store on El Camino Real seems to be moving a lot of chicken feed off the shelves.

The SMC group's founding host, Nikki, does a great job of making everyone feel welcome and sharing the details of her own journey into raising urban chickens (her first chicks just hatched). And I think we'll be trying to organize a group dinner in May if there's enough interest.

In the two years since I started blogging here on urbanchickens.net, I've had a chance to meet a half dozen other urban chicken farmers here in Redwood City, and I don't want to generalize too much here, but urban chicken farmers seem to be the nicest folks in town.

Won't you join us in the group? And if you're outside the area but have your own group going, feel free to advertise it in the comments.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Another Chicken Coop Open House

This video about raising chickens in Beverly, Massachusetts contains a plug for an open house tomorrow, May 2, from noon to 3pm. You can see the details of the open house over on the beverly chickens blog.




Sue Lupo's a great ambassador for the urban chicken movement, and the video's a wonderful introduction for those interested in getting their own chickens.

If you know of any other open houses to add to our list of upcoming chicken coop tours, please let me know so I can spread the word!

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