CLUCK (Citizens Lobbying for Urban Chicken Keeping) is a group working in support of backyard hens in Sarasota.
We've had success in the city and are turning our efforts to the County.
Write to volunteer, show support or ask questions at
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All we are saying is: Give Peeps A Chance.
CLUCK's Counter-intuitive Reality: If you don't want fugitive chickens in the neighborhood, you need to let them out of the coop.
CLUCK's Counter-intuitive Reality: If you don't want fugitive chickens in the neighborhood, you need to routinely let them out into a fenced yard.
Another concern expressed about backyard chickens is that they will get loose and become feral, like the unowned or abandoned cats that live in some neighborhoods. This birds on the loose specter is heightened by the reality that chickens can fly, which adds a third dimension to the challenge of recapturing them once they "fly the coop".
The solution proposed by some well-intentioned parties is that the birds should be enclosed at all times and never allowed to roam freely in a fenced backyard. That may seem commonsensical, but it reflects some mistaken assumptions that people not familiar with chicken behavior can easily make.
In order to explain why, it is helpful to start by thinking about domestic cats.
Cats are a little like carpet -- you’ve got your indoor-outdoor and indoor types. The indoor-outdoor cat has both an inside life and an outside life and it knows where it is warm and dry, and where the Friskies are kept. Once let out, it is skilled at announcing its desire to get back in, either by meowing, drumrolling its paws on a window, or using the pet door. If the indoor-outdoor cat gets out, no big deal, it will return on its own accord (and maybe bring you a mouse or lizard as an offering).
The indoor cat is a different beast. It lives its life inside, unaware of the great beyond and its owners are skilled at positioning an intervening ankle in an open doorway and advising visitors to not let the cat out. But accidents occur and occasionally Tigger or Boots seizes the opportunity and squirts out. Uh oh. Now the cat is confronted with a world of insurmountable opportunity and may or may not have any idea how to get back in the house. Pandemonium may ensue. Evidence of the magnitude of this problem lies in the fact that if you google “my indoor cat escaped” you get more than three thousand hits. We've all seen the poignant xeroxed signs on phone poles around the neighborhood.
Two types of cats, two entirely different reactions to being outside the house.
Now substitute hen for cat and coop for house. Chickens that get out regularly know exactly how to get back in. As shadows lengthen they long for their safe perches and head inside on their own through the doorway they have traversed many times.
But cooped-up chickens that escape and have never been out in the yard are likewise confronted with a world of insurmountable opportunity and may or may not have any idea how to get back in the coop. (There may not even be a door positioned that would allow them to get back in). Pandemonium may ensue. The flustered clucker may conclude she should roost in a tree and efforts to catch her are complicated by both her disoriented panic and ability to flee in three dimensions. Now you are on a path to having a chicken on the loose.
So, counter-intuitive as it may seem, the unintended consequence of keeping chickens enclosed 99.9% of the time creates conditions that can result in having chickens on the lamb while letting them out creates conditions that leads to the re-entering the coop on their own.
Virtually every pet that walks or flies has the potential to get out, either by accident or as part of a deliberate escape attempt. Snakes break out. Dogs take off. Indoor cats escape. And, let's admit, Ms. Feathers could somehow find herself outside looking in.
So you have to ask yourself: " Do I want a confused bird that has no idea how to get back in the coop on the loose in an unfamilar backyard that may have no enclosing fence?
Or a yard-savvy bird that knows exactly how to go home to roost and is confined by a backyard fence?
The answer is easy, although contrary to first assumptions.
That's why CLUCK is offering substitute wording that restores the original covered enclosure or fenced enclosure wording proposed by staff:
The chickens shall be provided with a movable covered enclosure (henhouse/coop) and must be kept in the covered enclosure or a fenced enclosure at all times. Chickens must be secured within the henhouse/coop during non-daylight hours.