Saturday, July 25, 2009

urban chickens in Canada? cue Trish's hysteria

On July 23, CBCNews ran a story on an urban chickens experiment in Charletotetown, PEI (pop ~32,000).

The Biggley family started raising a dozen chickens in their yard on Prince Edward Island, even though the bylaws of Charlottetown forbid raising livestock, and the mayor has decided to take a wait-and-see approach to the situation instead of the more typical cease-and-desist. According to the CBC, the mayor said "the city might have to act if it was a commercial operation, or if there were complaints from neighbours. None of the neighbours CBC News talked to has a problem with the hens."

What a refreshing municipal approach to urban chickens: experiment with allowing the real thing rather than allowing the naysayers and naifs fight for the status quo with misinformation.

If you want to see the kind of hysterics the urban chicken movement is up against, simply read a couple pages of the comments associated with the CBCnews article. The anti-chicken crew are pulling out all the usual arguments: smell, mess, rodents, gateway to bigger livestock. The usual.

There's one particular commenter, Trish A, who I think embodies the archetypal anti-chicken person. She ascribes all kinds of motivations to the Biggley family that simply aren't true. Luckily, the Biggleys are there on the board to refute Trish's claims.

If you're thinking of taking up the cause to change the laws in your own town to allow urban chickens, you'd do well to read through the entire comment thread if only to get a preview of the kind of fear you might have to contend with if you have a Trish-like person in your town.

What would you say to calm down someone like Trish?

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.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

just say no to urban roosters

A friend of mine (@lpetrides) posted a video from where she's traveling in Greece.

Go ahead, watch it. I'll be here when you get back.

But note: there's not much to see in the video, as it was shot from her room at 4:24am, while all that's visible in the black of night are the porch lights of the houses surrounding her.

The soundtrack, however, is priceless. You can hear the rooster crowing starting at about 30 seconds into the 2-minute flick. And you can hear the echo of other roosters chiming in in response to the rooster's own crowing starting at about 60 seconds in.

Those who think roosters crow only at sunrise are sorely mistaken. They're as bad as dogs in their disregard for the timing of their noisiness.

Please, for all our sanity, be sure to exclude roosters from any urban chicken ordinance you may be trying to pass.

UPDATED: Thanks, Lisa for pointing out in the comments that the rooster wasn't echoing, just rousing the neighboring roos to get noisy, too. I wonder if a rooster's call does indeed echo? (useless trivia: Mythbusters proved that a duck's quack never echos)


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