Raise Chickens in Rural Areas

See questions asked by MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers answered, including advice on raising chickens in rural areas.

| April/May 2001

A Fowl Conundrum

I live in a small rural town where the city council plans to ban residents from keeping fowl within city limits. Do I have any rights concerning keeping my chickens in town? Who should I contact to protest the vote? Also, do you have an article featuring building plans for chicken shelters?

 — Sandi Aboulized

Many readers of MOTHER EARTH NEWS view a backyard poultry flock, with its fresh organic eggs and the contented sound of clucking, as exemplary of rural self-sufficiency. But for many established residents of small rural towns, a flock of scruffy, half-wild chickens running free in the yard may well epitomize rural poverty. Most of your neighbors are probably too young to have experienced Dust Bowl privation themselves, but they have surely heard stories of those desperately hard times from older generations. Also, there is often a community within small towns that yearns for economic growth and an urbane, bigger-city image. Livestock of any kind in town isn't consistent with the urban image they envision.

There may be no way you can successfully challenge small-town values or zoning restrictions, but you can try to win folks over by setting a good example. Make your yard a dust- and odor-free showplace, with frequently changed organic litter in the hen house and outside run to absorb odors and hold down dust. Donate eggs to local bakers for a fundraising cake sale volunteer a box of new chicks for show-and-tell, and invite children over for a tour of the chicken operation.

Finally, if you can, identify the prime movers behind the motion to outlaw poultry. You have a right to query the city council about reasons and individuals behind the anti-chicken ordinance in public meetings. Your best bet is to charm the anti-chicken interests with a basket of fresh eggs and your reasons for wanting the flock. Be sincere, and try to empathize with those for whom your chickens evoke bad memories.

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