Residential chicken-keeping means more henpecked politics on the homefront
You might find it distasteful for your neighbors to keep a backyard flock of chickens. What’s next, you muse, goats and pigs? A line for air drying laundry? Vegetable gardens in place of front-yard annuals? Work trucks in the driveway? What’s your neighborhood coming to?
Environmentalism, health and gastronomical concerns should only go so far, you say. Animals have their place and it’s as traditional pets or on farms, not in residentially zoned areas that deserve their protections from property value-dumping elements of the avian variety.
We hashed out all the pros and cons on Dolittler not too long ago in the context of what is legal and what is not on my residential acre in suburban Miami. At the time, we determined that where I live, horses are legal but goats and chickens (indeed, anything that deserves the title “livestock”) is not.
Therefore, you can keep all manner of fancy “fowl”: an aviary of finches, roving peacocks, a cluster of cockatoos, a gaggle of fancy pigeons, a breeding pair of Macaws and almost any other kind of bird. but when it comes to chickens, their ‘livestock” designation does them in. Once you can expect to eat off their backs, all bets are off.
But an increasing number of municipalities are choosing to throw off the mantle of anti-gallinaceous racism in light of the increasing popularity of backyard flocks––not to mention the vociferous cluckings of their keepers. Here’s a Wall Street Journal article from a couple of weeks ago to prove just how far the movement’s come.
There are too many benefits to keeping birds in this way to ignore, say the ones who have chosen to cross the feathered line. The ones who toe it, claim these progressive zones, risk offending minority groups whose cultures successfully integrate flocks into the smallest of spaces. They risk staying behind the curve on the modern movement that reaps the rewards of a grow-your-own philosophy. And they lose nothing in allowing these citizens to care for pets little different than others residential inhabitants are allowed to maintain.
Sure, there have to be some ground rules. But these are easily laid down and enforced: No noisy birds that crow 24/7. No chicken coops integrated into your neighbor’s fence-line. A policy of basic containment. A set number of feet to separate any aviary or coop from your neighbors’ structures. These are simple rules that keep a neighborhood feeling neighborly and a tony residential burb from losing its fancy flavor.
For my part, I’ve recently had cause to become especially vigilant of how neighborly I behave with respet to my own flock. That’s because I’ve come to learn that keeping this avian species flies in the face of my zoning regs––despite the fact that every other species of bird is allowed, along with pet equids (yes donkeys, too). It’s also because my backyard flock managed to swell from three hens to twelve over the past week.
Yes, twelve. And before you lambast me on how anyone already informed of her neighborhood’s regs could flout the law so flagrantly, consider that I had already ordered three of these birds before I became aware of the avian double-standards in place around my parts. Sure, I knew I’d get noise violation action for keeping a rooster––but for hens? I truly thought I’d be defensibly raising birds just like my neighbor, whose cockatoos I can hear from more than a block away.
Moreover, I never ordered nine more birds. I ordered three. I was sent nine on the heels of a simple mixup, one rendered irreversible by virture of the stressful nature of the shipping process. So now––count ‘em––I’ve got nine Red Star pullets (five weeks old) and three Barred Rocks prepped and ready to start laying any day now.
Here are the "babies"(being watched over by a curious Poppy):
And here are the three "Furies," as I call them (hanging out with their beloved Poppy and Tulip):
So the new coop we’d planned to build over the weekend? Throw the plans out the window because Houston...we’ve got a problem. We need new plans, new wood, a new location, new everything. And here’s a shocker: we also need more money.
Hiding birds from prying eyes and animal control becomes a much more expensive proposition when you’ve got double the number to conceal. Luckily, I’ve got plenty of unused terrain and lots of vegetation on my wooded acre (and no nosy neighbors on the far end of my property). Here's the little goatpen in the woods, to give you an idea of the habitat:
But enough about me, already. Here’s where this movement is headed: A simple search for “politics” on the popular BackyardChickens.com website shows just how much change might be afoot where you live. Here’s just a taste: a link to their message board on the subject.
In case you’re not impressed by the dedication in evidence here, recognize that every pet has had to make strides in the US by starting somewhere. Remember there was a time when indoor dog-keeping was considered unsanitary and when bed-sharing with cats was the height of eccentricity.
We’ve come a long way, baby. Backyard chickens here we come.