Chicago Considers Chicken Ban !
The City Council is poised to send a message to residents: We donât want your clucking chickens.
Coming up for a vote Wednesday is a proposal to ban chickens, a former barnyard denizen that is pecking its way into cities across the country as part of a growing organic food trend among young professionals and other urban dwellers.
Chicken lovers say the birds make great pets, donât take up much backyard space and provide tasty, nutritious eggs.
Cities including Madison, Wis., and Kent, Wash., have passed ordinances allowing people to keep chickens. In Ann Arbor, Mich., a councilman says he plans to introduce a resolution to allow hens to be kept for eggs, and the Board of Zoning Appeals in the upscale Indianapolis suburb of Carmel recently approved an exception to city rules to allow a family to keep three hens in their backyard.
But the Chicago alderman who proposed a Chicago ban say chicken lovers forget that the birds attract rodents.
âThis past summer I started hearing that residents were letting chickens out of their yard and they were leaving poop and mice were feeding off of it,â said Alderman Lona Lane. âThen we started getting rodent-control problems and, sure enough, it was the chickens.â
There are also concerns about parasites the birds might carry, and the possibility that they could transmit bird flu if it makes its way to the U.S., said Dr. Marek Digas, the supervising veterinarian at the cityâs Commission on Animal Care and Control.
âIt is something we should consider,â he said.
Many neighbors of chicken-keepers arenât happy, either. This year, the city received more than 700 complaints about chickens _ though mostly about the racket from roosters.
âWe donât encourage people to keep roosters because of the noise,â said Johannes Paul, one of the founders of Omlet, a British company that sells a dome-shaped chicken house called the eglu in the U.S for $495.
âThe chickens will produce eggs more than happily without a rooster around,â Paul said.
Chicagoan Kim Jackson said her two chickens, Papoo and Chalmers, do a little quiet talking but thatâs it.
She says they donât smell, largely because she and her husband regularly clean up after them. But even if they didnât, âitâs not nearly as bad as a dog as far as how far-reaching the smell will get,â she said.
Although there are no firm statistics on the number of city chickens, theyâre becoming so popular that Backyard Poultry magazine was relaunched a couple of years ago after halting publication in the 1980s. And Paul said U.S. sales of his companyâs designer chicken coops have doubled every year since they were introduced here in 2005.
Those who have eaten eggs from their own chickens say they are far fresher and tastier than store-bought eggs.
âAnd theyâre so productive for the garden,â said Owen Taylor, training and livestock coordinator of Just Food, a New York-based nonprofit group. âThey aerate the soil, eat bugs and they look like little tractors, tilling the soil.â
Taylor said he was surprised that Chicago _ a city that banned foie gras in restaurants over concerns about cruelty to geese and embraced rooftop gardening _ isnât more welcoming of chickens.
âThe mayor has bees on the roof of City Hall so I was thinking Chicago was ahead of its time in terms of livestock regulations,â said Taylor.
Some say the experience of chicken-keepers in other cities proves Chicagoâs proposed ordinance is unnecessary.
âYou hear the same argument (that) theyâre loud, they smell ... that there would be wild chickens running amok in Seattle, but that hasnât been the case,â said Angelina Shell, of Seattle Tilth, a nonprofit organic gardening and urban ecology group.
What may doom them in Chicago, say chicken supporters, is that for all the talk about noise, smell and disease, chickens simply donât look like they belong in todayâs modern city.
âItâs a gentrification issue,â said Erika Allen of Growing Power, a nonprofit group that promotes urban gardening around the country. âPeople move in and they donât want chickens next to their house so they go and complain.â