Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seattle Bans Roosters!

City of Sarasota planning staff wisely considered what other communities have done when they drafted the changes to the City Code regarding chickens. One of the places they may have looked is the City of Seattle, which this past summer only allowed three chickens, including roosters. Seattle just recently fine-tuned their rules and decided enough with the roosters. Existing roosters are "grandfeathered" in, but no new ones will be allowed.

But other aspects of the chicken rules have also changed and the City now allows eight hens.

Does Seattle's shift support CLUCK's contention that six hens is a more appropriate number than four? We'd like to think so. Banning roosters and implementing a ten foot property line setback brings Seattle's rules more in line with what our City staff came up with. Now we have to ask if our city shouldn't rethink the proposed four hen limit.

What is your position on how hard to push for six hens? Participate in the poll on the right hand side of the CLUCK Blog.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Chickens Impact on Urban Quality of Life

Do backyard chickens have a negative impact on quality of life? Chicken proponents would argue no, they actually improve a community's quality of life, while opponents aren't so sure. But are there any data? A planner with the City of Springfield Missouri looked at the 2008 CNN Money Magazine "Best Places to Live" Ratings. According to his findings, seven of the ten top-rated best small cities allowed backyard chickens (and seven of the top eight slots). Does that mean chickens made those communities better? Not necessarily. But it does mean backyard chickens didn't knock those places out of contention -- that backyard chickens were not symptomatic of communities that had lost their way, but rather that a few hens were positively correlated with small cities that were doing things right.

Intriguingly, a November 15th, 2010 article in the Coloradoan suggests that the top-rated city in the 2008 Best Places to Live list, Fort Collins, Colorado, now allows chickens. According to the article "Most municipalities in the county, including Fort Collins and Loveland, in recent years have adopted regulations permitting backyard chickens."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fighting the Backyard Chicken Fad

If you haven't thrown this weekend's Parade Magazine away, you'll notice a favorable article about backyard chickens, just more evidence about how trendy backyard chickens have become. Martha Stewart raves about them and there is no shortage of other articles about this nationwide phenomenon. But trends can devolve into fads pretty quickly.

Of course, most fads are pretty harmless -- abandoned pet rocks don't suffer. But when a living pet trend becomes a fad, animals are at risk. Dalmatian registrations surged after re-release of 101 Dalmatians. And Clownfish capture increased in the wake of Finding Nemo. So there is a possibility the backyard chicken movement will turn into a fad placing chickens at risk.

The difference between a trend and fad is that a trend has underlying rational basis while a fad is driven primarily by its own popularity. So the challenge for serious backyard chicken promoters is to stay firmly connected to the underlying rational basis and resist popularity for popularity's sake.

That's why CLUCK emphasizes and supports workshops and educational efforts to impress on would-be chicken keepers the challenges and responsibilities of owning chickens. Those of us who have raised chickens before know what we are getting into, but first timers are owed a clear understanding of what is involved. Luckily both the local Extension Office and private educators are offering workshops and there are now some great resources that explain the dimensions of backyard chicken keeping.* Fight the fad.

* This blog lists a number of online resources in the column on the right. Perhaps the most impressive is the BackYard Chickens website, which has lots of info and over 70,000 chicken keepers in its forum.

One can also subscribe to Backyard Poultry magazine, which contains both helpful articles and advertisements for everything from the basics (baby chicks, coops, feeders, waterers) to automatic coop closers and incubators.

There are dozens of books (93 hits for "backyard chickens" on Amazon). Here are three I have and can recommend:

City Chicks by Patricia Foreman (Subtitled Keeping Micro-Flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Creators, Bio-Recyclers and Local Food Suppliers) This is the longest (464 pages) and the best I have seen since it focuses on micro-flocks.

Raising Chickens for Dummies by Kimberly Willis with Rob Ludlow

Keep Chickens! Tending Small Flocks in Cities, Suburbs, and Other Small Spaces by Barbara Kilarski