Chicken Wars: One Woman's Fight to Own Backyard Hens

I like to check in at http://www.backyardchickens.com/ and see what's new on the forums every once in a while. One woman who petitioned her city to allow hens among the city ordinances received a castigating "welcome to town" in the local paper for her efforts. Now, BYCers (as those who frequent the forums like to call themselves) are taking up her cause and are helping her by writing letters to the paper and the local council. I myself was incensed enough by the condescending, un-informed authorship of the following article to write in a comment as well...

For those who love chickens, and for the curious, I include the article and my response below :) If you wind up wanting to write in a comment, too, go to http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2009/dec/19/home-home-ranch/

Home, home on the ranch
Saturday, December 19, 2009

EAST COUNTY — Ah, the sounds and sights of morning. The coffee pot perking, the newspaper hitting the driveway, the before-dawn walkers gliding by as darkness lifts, the gaggle of sounds from the chickens next door ...

Someone tried to slip a henhouse by the La Mesa City Council the other night, but that group of stalwarts – “foxy” isjn’t the right word word to describe them – was too alert.
Jill Richardson, a newcomer to La Mesa, asked permission to keep a half-dozen chickens as pets and egg producers. That’s a no-no in La Mesa, save for a couple of areas with large lots and grandfather clauses.

City officials suggested it would cost $20,000 to revise the ordinance. In fairness to Richardson, however, $20,000 to a city with a $36 million budget is, shall we say, mere chicken feed.
No, there are reasons chickens have persona non grata status inside most city limits. One has to do with sanitation and public health. Another with keeping peace between neighbors – that plump hen just beyond the fence is pretty inviting to a bored feline or canine. And third is the noise. Romantics aside, roosters don’t just crow at the crack of dawn.

Richardson made a strategic mistake, and we don’t mean asking for permission. If anything, she forgot the prime tenet of real estate – location.

One virtue of neighboring El Cajon and points east is that you can be in the city but just a five-minute drive from open country. If East County is anything, it is horse corrals, mini-orchards, occasional swaths of alfalfa and plenty of rugged eagle’s-nest views.

La Mesa has charming homes on twisting hillside roads with canopies of trees, but most lots are distinctly city-sized.

We don’t fault Richardson for wanting a few pets or exceptionally fresh eggs. But she needs to do what many of us old-timers should be doing more of, taking a day trip to explore and get away from it all while hardly leaving our back yard.

Find a Thomas Bros. mapbook and head for Campo, Jamacha, Jamul, Dehesa or Crest. Or aim for Barona, Sycuan or Viejas, but take time getting there – and circle around. You’ll be away from it all, yet not that far from the city.

Here’s welcoming Jill Richardson. For many, East County has just the right mix of city and country. We’re confident she’ll find hers, too.

And here's my comment to the paper:

What a condescending article -- not only was it rude, but the author clearly knows little to nothing about chickens.

Chickens are not dirty, and they don't smell. Just as one must clean up after their cat or dog to assure clean conditions, so must a coop be regularly cleaned: the difference is that chicken manure is an inoffensive addition to compost, and safe to use in the garden.

Ms. Richardson asked specifically for the city to allow hens, not roosters -- hens do not crow, or make any more noise than your average cat. Chickens are not "inviting prey" for most cats, and most city ordinances for chickens require them to be fenced in securely within coops with runs to keep them in and dogs and cats out. Similarly, most dogs are required to be fenced in or on leash, regardless of how tempting a morsel in the neighbors yard may be: whether it is a toddler, a chicken or a steak on the grill!

City ordinances can also specify how much space each chicken must have to ensure humane animal practices, and restrict the number of chickens per household. Many cities these days in developed nations allow chickens, including the United States -- I am surprised that the writer did not do a little more research into the positive possibilties before "welcoming" Ms. Richardson so publicly.

No comments: