In Support of Chickens

A response to the column in today’s Capital Journal: What’s the Big Cluck about Chickens?

I appreciate Merrie Miller’s reminiscences about chickens gone wrong on the farm. Those of us advocating for an urban chicken ordinance have heard many such stories.

We have also heard just as many stories of urban coops being an asset and benefit to a family. If you read the pro-urban chicken boards you will feel you are depriving yourself of one life’s great pleasures not to mention tasty eggs by not keeping chickens.

Quite frankly, both extreme pro and con opinions should be approached with a good dose of realism. Chickens will not be the ruin of a neighborhood, nor are they an easy, low cost way to stretch your budget and restore family values.

What they are is a good idea for those who wish to undertake the work necessary to keep them in town. It is imperative to keep in mind that someone’s bad experience is not sufficient enough reason to prohibit everyone from exercising their private property rights as long as there is no adverse impact on the greater community.

There is a huge difference between a small backyard flock of no more than six urban hens that will be cooped and free ranging flocks of dozens of chickens around a farmyard.

Most of the people we have encountered who oppose a chicken ordinance grew up with chickens on a farm and had a bad experience at some point. We understand and appreciate that not everyone loves chickens and wants to be as far away from them as possible. This is why we have worked to create an ordinance that

1. requires chicken keepers to keep hens in a clean, pest free coop and

2. prohibits roosters.

The impact of a coop on a neighborhood should be less than that of a medium sized dog. As an organization, we will offer classes and a network to support people who are interested in keeping a coop to make sure that they are in compliance with the ordinance.

Many cities including Sioux Falls, Bozeman, Cheyenne, Santa Fe, St Paul, Omaha, Denver, Miami, New York, Los Angeles, St Louis, Madison, Ann Arbor, Lawrence, plus dozens and dozens of more have successfully managed to allow urban chickens without the quality of life being adversely affected by predators, recalcitrant children who slack on chores, or people who are otherwise irresponsible.

Will there be people who undertake chicken keeping without giving the matter due consideration then find themselves regretting their decision? Undoubtedly. If that happens, the Greater Oahe Action League has identified several out of town farms that will take the birds or, failing that, we will arrange to have them butchered and the meat donated to the food pantry.

A properly crafted chicken ordinance is good for Pierre.