Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Let them eat eggs!

Madison alderman Marsha Rummel wants more people to be able to keep backyard chickens within city limits. Currently, the law states that only those people living in single-unit homes can raise them--and no more than 4 hens, no roosters, and no on-sight slaughtering. The other caveat? Enclosures where the chickens live may be no closer than 25 feet from the nearest residence.

It's that last bit that makes Rummel's expansion wishes seem strange. How would it be possible for a multi-unit building to keep enclosures at least 25 feet from the next closest residence?

Let me be clear: I support the ordinance as it currently stands. There are a lot of misperceptions circulating about what it means to have chickens kept within the city. People fear an overwhelming stench of bird poo in the summer, loud clucking noises, and disease outbreaks, among other things. While the latter has some justification (though chances are currently slim), the other two are pretty well unfounded.

As with any pet or animal kept by humans, the smell factor is almost entirely dependent on how well the owner takes care of them. Reasonable efforts at cleaning out the bedding and other general upkeep mean very little smell. A good friend of mine lives directly next door to a house where chickens are kept. We often sit in his backyard, just a fence between us and the bird enclosure, and never once have I noticed any sort of smell. The only sounds I've ever heard coming from over there are occasional contented clucks. It's actually quite nice.

Plus, keeping your own chickens means easy access to fresh eggs, a way to bypass the often unsanitary and cruel conditions found at most industrial production facilities.

You can read more about the keeping of backyard chickens here.

So in this case, I say leave those people currently raising chickens and the ordinance alone. I'm sure Alderman Rummel could find other good uses for her time, anyway.

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