Saturday, July 2, 2011

CLUCK THEORY: The Six Stages of Residential Chickens In America

This is conceptual model that attempts to explain the various stages of residential chicken relationships every community in the US experiences. Not all communities experience all stages, and some stages may be leapfrogged or skipped.

B.C. -- Before Chickens: Chickens are not native to North America so at some point every place on the continent had no chickens. Some places still don't and may never.

Rural Pioneers: With some exceptions, most current urban and suburban areas were preceded by being rural, sparsely-settled locales with few rules, dirt roads, no centralized infrastructure and people with livestock or poultry on their terms, in many cases running at large with no fence laws. Some communities never get past this -- these may include communities where the majority of settlers tolerate free-roaming chickens (Key West) and tropical settings that approximate Jungle Fowl habitat (Kauai?). 
Removal - Urbanity: As communities grow, rural behaviors are increasingly constrained, fence laws appear and owners are required to keep livestock on their property -- running "at large" is no longer permitted. Other "rural" behaviors (slaughtering, use of manure fertilizer, hunting, etc.) are also commonly constrained.

Repudiation- Residential Zoning and Restrictions: As urbanism proceeds there is frequently increasing segregation of land uses and the banishment of livestock and poultry, whether or not they are kept on the resident's property. Chickens come to be seen as debilitating remnants of the past and not appropriate in the urban sphere. Some locales technically allow chickens, but with setbacks so great few backyards qualify. Chickens and other livestock come to reflect backward, non-progressive communities. This segregation of use probably both contributes to and results from the industrialization of chicken raising. Grandfather clauses allow some relict operations to persist. 4-H programs form another relict situation in which chickens (and rabbits) are allowed to persist strictly as educational endeavors.

Redemption-- Chickens as Pets: The definition of pets expands past cats, dogs, and fish to more exotic animals. Pot-bellied pigs break trail -- establishing the possibility that former livestock species may ultimately come to be viewed as pets. Parents become concerned that their children lack connections to the origins of food. Historic communities vote to once again allow chickens as outdoor, typically backyard, pets. Roosters commonly banned. New towns that may have lost connection with any rural past tend to view chickens as an entirely new, not historic, phenomenon. 

Relaxation -- Celebration: -- The sixth phase. Restrictions are relaxed -- for example, cities such as Seattle and Denver (where backyard hens were legal) have recently made it less onerous to keep backyard poultry. Relaxation typically involves reduced permitting requirements and/or allowing an increased number of birds. Cities advertise coop tours and embrace their identity as being chicken-friendly. Allowing chickens now suggests a progressive community. 

Expansion?-- The domino theory anti-chicken forces fear occurs in some locales. People push for backyard bee-keeping or the acceptance of other "farm animals" in urban settings.

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