Thursday, April 29, 2010

Animal Sanctuary Coalition Hoodwinks Mankato City Council

I've blogged about the urban chicken goings-on in Mankato, Minnesota before because it's such a rich source of perplexity regarding the evolution of anti-chicken laws, the hysterical anti-chicken sentiment and the schizophrenic actions of the City Council. The Council rejected an ordinance last year that would allow urban chickens to return to the city for the first time since 1949.

Lucky for wannabe urban chicken keepers, the Mankato City Council has decided to give the chicken issue another look in 2010! Good, right? Read on...

Unluckily for wannabe urban chicken keepers, the council is referring to a staff report that contains more hysterical fiction than fact. From Dan Linehan's article in the Free Press:
A staff report on this issue brings up some predictable negatives like smell, proper care and protection from predators.

It also says between 20 percent to 50 percent of chicks sold as hens turn out to be roosters.

“These unwanted roosters are often given to animal shelters, released into the streets, and, in a growing number of cases, sold for cockfighting,” the report says.

Companies that sell chicks typically ground up the newborn roosters for feed or fertilizer, according to the report. 
Wait a minute! We've seen these scary (and still unsubstantiated) facts before somewhere, haven't we?

Oh yeah, it's the same crap that Animal Sanctuary Coalition who blasted their outlandish Position Statement on Backyard Chickens last December. And it would appear this coalition has managed to brainwash the Mankato staff with a single sensational press release. It smacks of laziness on the city staff's part that they'd take the claims lock, stock and barrel. Yet, the council is able to say (with a straight face) it's "open to revisiting the issue" even though they'd get better inputs from perusing the menu at the local KFC. (or Church's or Popeye's or whatever fries up the chicken parts near you).

I'd love to get my hands on this staff report to see exactly what it claims. But I don't hold out much hope that the Mankato City Council changes their mind if what's described by Linehan in his article is indicative of the kind of preparation they're doing.

Such a shame.

If you could write a press release to help the folks at the pro-chicken Mankato HENS (Hens Enriching Nutrition and Sustainability) what kind of material would you include to counteract the sanctuary coalition's claims?

Photo credit: A.Myers on Flickr

Monday, April 26, 2010

Secret Gardens of the East Bay Follow Up

I had the pleasure of talking all things urban chickens with a group of people who were participating in the 24th Annual Secret Gardens of the East Bay tour over in Oakland yesterday. It was a delightfully beautiful Spring day outside (sunny, mid-70s) and I was impressed that the group of about 30 or so people actually chose to cram into a small classroom to listen to me and ask good questions.

I promised I'd provide them links here on the blog to the urban chicken resources I listed in my blog, so without further ado, a shout out to the following people/places to get your urban chicken on:
  • - a strong online community of backyard chicken enthusiasts and just about any question you have about the cluckers, someone at BYC will know the answer.
  • - a wonderful online source for small quantities of just the breed of chicks you're looking for. They've got lots of other good chicken supplies and paraphernalia, too, and don't forget to consult their Chicken Selector Tool to help you narrow down your choice of chick!
  •'s Poultry Page - While it hasn't been updated in over a year, the content about chickens is timeless (and rest assured chickens haven't evolved enough in the meantime to warrant any updates).
  • Yahoo! Groups related to chickens (like San Mateo Chickens and Silicon Valley Chickens)
  • 4-H Clubs
  • Meetups
And a big thank you to Nina for coordinating the speaker series and the gift of the awesome Slice of Organic Life book. I can't wait to put the ideas in the book to practice!

Finally, be sure to check out the Poulet Chalets article in yesterday's San Francisco Chronicle. It covers much the same information I did in my presentation (but it's in handy-dandy written form).

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Urban Chickens and Conspicuous Consumption

    new home for the chooksThe most often-asked question I hear from reporters or other curious folks is "how expensive is it to raise urban chickens?" My answer is always the same: it all depends on how much you want to spend on your coop.

    The hens themselves are cheap, their food is cheap, straw/woodchips/water is cheap. The coop is ususally, decidedly not cheap.

    And why is that? As long as our chickens have a dry, draft-free, safe place to sleep and a box to lay their eggs in (more for our convenience than theirs), they're fine.

    We humans are the ones who insist on aesthetics. And the cost curve for aesthetics is steep as soon as you move away from the "homely, but it'll do" point and toward the "I'd be proud to show this off on a coop tour" end of the spectrum. So why bother?

    The clue to this answer comes courtesy a blog post by Seth Godin (author of Linchpin, Tribes and the Dip, among others) where he revisits the notion of conspicuous consumption:
    The reason you have a front lawn? It's a tradition. Lawns were invented as a way for the landed gentry to demonstrate that they could afford to waste land. By taking the land away from the grazing sheep, they were sending a message to their neighbors. We're rich, we can happily waste the opportunity to make a few bucks from our front lawn.
    Which got me thinking about all the money I've spent over the years on landscaping for our homes as we've moved from one place to the next. I bought into the "tradition" each and every time by spending thousands to get a nice lawn and stately trees and perfect shrubbery.

    Heck, when we first got into urban chickens, we bought an Eglu, which was definitely not the cheapest coop on the market (but I'd argue has been a great investment in terms of ease-of-cleaning).

    But now that we have our chickens... I find I'm seeing the backyard lawn as the more wasteful use of money (ongoing thanks to watering, mowing, feeding, etc). And maybe that's the right way to be looking at things again.

    How has owning chickens gotten you to re-evaluate your landscaping?

    Photo credit: thomaspix on Fickr


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