Monday, July 20, 2009

Iowa City Does Chickens

Updated June 30. 2009 8:23PM
Chickens like the dog next door
By Jennifer Hemmingsen
Gazette columnist

Is Iowa City going to join the growing ranks of urban chicken communities?

Early signs are favorable.

Poultry proponents expected to hand over at last night’s city council meeting more than 700 signatures petitioning council members to allow chickens inside the city limits.

They want council members to approve up to five backyard hens, no roosters, in residential areas.

I can’t tell you how council members responded — the meeting happened after this column was put to bed — but it’s safe to say they won’t dismiss the idea out of hand.

I saw council member Amy Correia at a Saturday screening of “Mad City Chickens” — a documentary about Madison, Wis., chicken owners who pushed the city to allow the fowl there several years ago.

“I wasn’t really sure before going, but the movie made me think it’s a definite possibility,” Correia later told me. She said she’ll bring up the idea to council.

About 35 people attended the screening — kids, gray hairs, long hairs and others — evidence that more than a few people around here are interested in raising their birds.

I’ve never owned chickens, but I’ve baby-sat them for a friend. They are no more a nuisance than other common urban animals. You could favorably compare them to some — no offense, dogs.

Iowa City Animal Services Director Misha Goodman also has been looking into the idea, checking with other cities that allow backyard chickens.

There are more than you might think. According to the folks over at City Chicken, the birds are allowed in Des Moines, Sioux City and a few other Iowa towns, along with dozens of farther-flung cities as big as New York, Chicago, Albuquerque, N.M., and Portland, Ore.

Goodman wouldn’t comment yet this week on what her recommendations to council might be. She and Correia reminded me that nothing in city government happens overnight. So I’ll try to contain my excitement.

But I hope council keeps an open mind.

It wasn’t unusual for people to have chickens in town before World War II. In these modern times, people are becoming increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes from.

Raising your eggs is a logical step toward local and sustainable eating. Advocates say those homegrown eggs taste better, too.

You can find out more from IC Friends of Urban Chickens at

Wall Street Journal Reports on Chickens in Salem, Oregon,

The Wall Street Journal Article on July 15, 2009, regarding Salem, Oregon:


SALEM, Ore. -- For three hours at a City Council meeting, residents clucked over the latest debate ruffling feathers here: Should homeowners be allowed to keep chickens in their backyards?

The chicken fight began last summer, when a neighbor snitched on Barbara Palermo to city authorities for keeping four pet hens in a backyard coop. Chickens and other livestock aren't allowed in Salem backyards where land isn't zoned for agricultural use. A city compliance officer knocked on Ms. Palermo's door to tell her she had to get rid of her pet birds.

But she has decided not to give up without a fight. Ms. Palermo put her chickens in "foster care" with a friend outside town as she rallies residents and presses city councilors to pass an ordinance legalizing backyard coops. She's asking the city to allow homeowners to have three hens -- no roosters, which are much noisier -- that would have to be kept in enclosed coops at all times.

Ms. Palermo is part of a debate that's playing out in several cities across the country. The 51-year-old veterinarian's assistant says she's stunned by the opposition. It's hypocritical that Salem residents can keep potbellied pigs weighing under 100 pounds, she says. "They generate a lot of poo and don't give you it's ridiculous when you ask for a hen and people panic."

Enthusiasts say chickens make great pets, especially for young children, and that their eggs taste much better than the store-bought kind. Ms. Palermo also uses chicken waste as fertilizer for her vegetable garden and composter and feeds grass clippings, carrot tops, and other green waste to her birds. "In 24 hours, it will be an egg and fertilizer," she says.

Advocates, who also tout the economic benefits of having free eggs, say the recession is driving an interest in backyard gardens that increasingly include chicken coops.

But critics of the backyard coops say chickens attract raccoons, coyotes, and other pests and that they create unsanitary conditions. And the foes say the cited economic benefits are nonsense. Just building a coop can cost hundreds of dollars and raising hens is time-consuming.

"It's silliness," says Terri Frohnmayer, a commercial real-estate broker who is co-chairwoman of one of Salem's 19 neighborhood associations and lives outside town next to a farm that has chickens. "Eggs aren't even that expensive anyway. What's next? Goats? Llamas?" Her advice to hen-loving neighbors: "Get a farm."

There are no official statistics on how many city folk keep chickens, and it isn't clear whether urban coops are on the rise. Randall Burkey Co., a Boerne, Texas, hatchery, credits a doubling of small orders for chickens and supplies in urban and suburban areas for boosting profit at a time when traditional sales to commercial farmers have been flat or down. "We're experiencing some pretty nice growth, which, considering the economy, has been quite a blessing," says Clark Burkey, vice president for marketing.

One online network,, has 35,000 members, up from about 10,000 a year ago. Members there solicit tips on how to keep illegal coops hidden from nosy neighbors and on how to persuade local politicians to allow backyard chickens.

During the two world wars, many cities encouraged residents to grow their own food and to keep chickens. But restrictions have cropped up in the past 50 years as urbanization reached deeper into the countryside. Salem allowed residents to keep livestock, including chickens, until the 1970s, when it decided "to be a city and not a rural community," says Chuck Bennett, a City Council member who opposes allowing backyard chickens.

Madison, Wis., in 2004 was one of the first cities to reverse a chicken ban, and other cities have followed suit, including Portland, Maine, and Vancouver, British Columbia.

In other cities, chickens have become a nuisance as they roam city streets. In 2003, Miami formed a "Chicken Busters" squad with a firefighter and code enforcement bureaucrat armed with big nets and small cages to patrol neighborhoods once a month. The team captured more than 6,600 chickens, and raised more than $11,000 selling them to local farms.

In Salem, city compliance officers inspect homes only when there are complaints, and owners usually are told to get rid of the birds or face fines. The city got around 30 complaints last year and has received about one a week since the debate heated up this year.

Nancy Baker-Krofft unsuccessfully lobbied the city in 2006 to change the law and brought her birds out of hiding earlier this year when it appeared that Salem might allow them. When city officials come to inspect, she says, she'll hide the birds in her son's room or check them into a neighbor's contraband coop, which she calls the "chicken hotel."

Last month, a chicken got loose when an officer inspected Ms. Baker-Krofft's home, resulting in her third citation. "I cannot afford another $250 ticket," says the 54-year-old substitute teacher. She has already racked up $350 in fines for repeated chicken-related citations, which she is challenging in city court.

Her behavior has alienated her from some neighbors, and her neighborhood association opposes keeping chickens. "It's like she has some underground railroad for chickens," says Alan Scott, the head of the association.

Mr. Scott and others worry that neighbors who don't take care of their coops will lower property values. The biggest concern, however, is that chickens will just lead to more conflicts between chicken owners and neighbors who own more traditional pets, like dogs. "You can just see the conflict associated with the addition of another animal into this kind of [close] environment," says Mr. Bennett, the council member.

Ms. Frohnmayer, who lives outside Salem, often finds her own springer spaniel sizing up chickens on her neighbor's farm. It's only natural, she says, for her dog to want to eat her neighbor's birds. "Are they going to put my dog down when it eats one of their chickens?" she says.

That issue has already come up. Salem resident Jason Caldwell replaced his neighbor's chicken after his Labrador retriever mauled a bird that had wandered onto his property. "I was just being a good neighbor," he says.

But when the dog ate the replacement, Mr. Caldwell bought yet another chicken for his neighbors and offered the following warning: "If there are any more chickens that are in my yard, I'm going to let the dog do whatever he wants."

He says he offered to build a better coop for his neighbor and spent $100 to replace the birds, which were a specialty breed. "That's a terrible way of having to have a conversation with your neighbor, but at some point I've got to put my foot down," he says.

Salem's City Council remains divided over the issue. Salem Mayor Janet Taylor is guardedly supportive of the measure and ready to vote after months of debate. "I know chickens are important, but we need to move on," she says.

Write to Nick Timiraos at

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Why are Some People Against Backyard Chickens?

From the research I've been doing, the same objections have been brought up in communities everywhere. Some of these are valid, but like so many other pets, it depends on the owner.

Some objections to having chickens in the city are:

Chickens are noisy. The gentle clucking of a hen is a soothing noise, unlike the neighbors barking dog, the police sirens, and the beating bass from passing car speakers. Typically, a hen clucks in excitement after she lays an egg. She's proud of her accomplishment and wants to announce that something marvelous just happened. A hen lays an egg approximately every 24 hours. I'm thinking the noise would be hardly noticed in comparison to other typical city noises.

When talking about chicken noises, usually roosters come to mind, don't they? Roosters are quite loud. Most cities prohibit having roosters because of this noise. Which really isn't a problem, because roosters are not necessary to get eggs. They are only necessary if you want that egg to turn into a chick.

Chickens smell. It is true that an unclean chicken coop can smell. If the chicken areas are cleaned once or twice a week, there should be no problem with the smell. The same holds true with dog houses - they also stink if their feces are not cleaned up. A positive of chicken dung is that is a wonderful addition to our gardens once it is composted. Cat & Dog poop should not be used for composting.

Tending to chickens has been described as therapeutic, much like working a garden. I can't wait to get my chicken therapy!

Local Food Sources

Many say that having backyard chickens is as satisfying as having your own garden. With self-sustainability and getting food locally envogue right now, having backyard chickens makes sense.

Locavore, as described by Wisconsin Public Television, are people who pay attention to where their food comes from, and eat as much of it from local sources as possible. WPT went so far as to list 10 Ways to Become a Locavore.

Why should you eat local? There is a wonderful article explaining things in much more detail than I will attempt, but here are the reasons, according to
  • Eating local means more for the local economy
  • Locally grown is fresher
  • Local food just plain tastes better
  • Locally grown food has longer to ripen
  • Eating local is better for air quality and pollution
  • Buying local keeps us in touch with the seasons
  • Buying locally grown food is fodder for a wonderful story.
Whether it's the farmer who brings local apples to market or the baker who makes local bread, knowing part of the story about your food is such a powerful part of enjoying a meal.
  • Eating local protects us from bio-terrorism
  • Local food translates to more variety
  • Supporting local providers supports responsible land development.
While I do not fully agree with all of the above, I definitely feel that eating local is just a great way to do things overall.

Monona's Chicken Fight With City Hall

The following article in the Wisconsin State Journal appeared on Friday, July 17th.

Monona's chicken ordinance continues to generate controversy

In January, when a proposal to allow Monona residents to keep chickens was introduced, the Munson family was totally on board with the idea. After all, they already owned several hens.

But now that two city commissions have voted against the proposed ordinance, which is expected to go before the City Council Monday, they just want the whole issue to disappear.

“We had no idea that it was even controversial,” said Scott Munson, who worries about what may happen to his chickens if the plan fails next week. Although he’s confident no “chicken Gestapo” will come knocking, he now believes the city’s don’t ask, don’t tell policy may be the way to go.

Monona Ald. Doug Wood introduced the proposed zoning change in January. It would allow single and two-family households to buy a permit to keep up to five hens — but no roosters.

Owners would be required to keep the hens in secure and clean housing at least 20 feet from neighboring residences and would not be allowed to slaughter the animals outside.

That’s not a problem, Munson said.

“No one really knows that we have chickens unless we tell them,” he said, adding the chickens are quiet, unobtrusive and “no odor comes from the coop.”

Madison approved a similar law in 2004.

But Monona’s Public Safety Commission unanimously voted against the proposal, July 1, citing enforcement as the main reason. The Plan Commission voted 3 to 2 against it June 22, mainly because the agricultural usage was not consistent with residents’ expectations in an urban setting like Monona, said Paul Kachelmeier, Monona’s planning and community development coordinator.

Mayor Robb Kahl, who has been against the zoning change from the beginning, agrees.

Kahl said residents have told him, “If I wanted to be out in an area where things like chickens were allowed. . .I would have moved to a more rural area.”

But Wood said the effort to allow chickens in the city goes beyond reducing energy associated with transporting food and having fresh eggs — it’s also about individual property rights.

Some people have said having chickens is an “East Side of Madison idea,” and they want Monona to be different, Wood said.

“That’s not really good enough when you’re telling someone how to use their private property,” he said. “You need to have some reason. I think chickens would probably be less of an imposition on your neighbors than a lot of things.”

Supporters say some have also expressed fears that allowing chickens would make the city look tacky.

“There’s this mindset of this being something low class, that if we allow chickens that pretty soon cars will sprout up on blocks,” said Heather Gates, executive director of The Natural Step Monona, a local organization working toward an environmentally, economically and socially sustainable community.

“It’s not very forward thinking,” she said. “We’re going to be looking for ways to have our food sources. . .be more local.”

Munson said he checked Monona’s codes when his family got their chickens in September and didn’t think they were breaking any laws.

The chickens are part of the family’s sustainable lifestyle, which includes a vegetable garden that occasionally gets help from a chicken eating Japanese lady beetles and slugs. The chicken manure is composted and used as fertilizer.

“It all really works well together as a system,” he said.

If you read the comments section of this article, you will see a great debate of how different minds think alike.

The Backyard Chicken Lays Nutritious Eggs!

Mother Earth News has some great statistics regarding Home Grown Organic Eggs. There are so many reasons to have backyard chickens. Here are some:

• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat
• 2/3 more vitamin A
• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids
• 3 times more vitamin E
• 7 times more beta carotene

Why Raise Backyard Chickens?

Backyard Chickens is a terrific website that has a list of why we should keep chickens in your backyard:
  • Easy and inexpensive to maintain (when compared to most other pets)
  • Eggs that are fresh, great-tasting & nutritious
  • Chemical-free bug and weed control
  • Manufacture the worlds best fertilizer
  • Fun & friendly pets with personality (yes, you read that right)
I am learning so much from others who have chickens in their backyards. There are several message boards out there, where members can ask questions and get advice from others who have done it before. It is a wonderful resource - check it out!

Friday, July 17, 2009


Mad City Chickens is a wonderful resource. I have copied many of their Frequently Asked Questions, edited to include the City of Columbus, to share with you.

Don't you need a rooster in order to get eggs?
No, a hen will lay eggs regardless--they just won't be fertile eggs.They still have the same nutritional value as fertilized eggs. Most of the eggs you buy in the store are unfertilized.

Are chickens dirty animals? Do they smell?
That will depend on the caretaker. Just like any other pet or animal, they need care--cleaning out the dirty bedding in the coop, keeping it dry and having a clean/dry area of sand or dirt for the birds to take dust bathes in. These practices will all help to keep your birds happy, healthy and odor free.

Will having chickens in my backyard attract rodents?
It is food that attracts rodents, not the birds. If you have wild bird feeders in your back yard, you run the same risk. Keep all feed in metal garbage cans, with secure lids. Feed birds in small doses, so as not to have a large amount of food left over. If you feed your birds scraps/ protein, make sure it is eaten and not left in the bedding.

Do hens make a lot of noise?
Ask any child "What does a rooster say?" and they will throw their head back and give you all they've got! But the hens, they are a different story. They usually make a soft, contented clucking sound--until they lay an egg. Then they get very excited and proud and will squawk for a few moments and then settle back down. They do not make a ruckus in the morning like their male counterparts and they are fast asleep in their coop by the time the sun goes down. Unlike the neighborhood dogs or cats!

What are the regulations for the City of Columbus,WI ?

Sec. 14-7. Keeping of animals.
No person shall keep, sell or offer for sale any horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, bees, rabbits, chickens, geese, ducks or other fowl, or any domestic animal, except as provided in section 14-11, or construct or use shelters therefore within the city without the authorization of the city council. Applications for permits shall be made to the clerk. This section shall not apply to the keeping of small caged birds, small caged animals or reptiles or aquatic and amphibian animals, kept solely as pets.

How many eggs will a hen lay in a week/year? When do they start to lay eggs?
A typical hen will start to lay eggs at about 6 months of age. The eggs will start out small, then get increasingly larger. During the first year of laying, the hen (if she is a good egg producer) will lay one egg, almost every day. The birds will then go through a "molt" in the late fall/ winter months and stop laying. Then they will start again in the early spring. You can encourage egg laying through the colder months by keeping a light on, inside the chicken coop. As the birds get older, they will start to lay fewer and fewer eggs. I had a chicken that was at least 5 years old, and she would give me 1 or 2 really big eggs a week.

How long do they live?
Well I guess that depends on who you talk to--Most farmers who are in the egg producing business will say 2 years. Those who are in the meat producing business will say 6 months--Those who keep birds as pets (with names) or who are not interested in maximum production of eggs, will find that chickens can live up to 8 or 10 years. It is your choice whether you want to keep a bird that long, and if not, there are local farmers willing to take in older birds (or there is always the "stew pot").

Do they need a lot of space?
Poultry Coops can fit into just about any size backyard. For 4 hens, a 3'x4' Coop plus a "run" (a place for them to scratch around) that is roughly 3'x8' is more than adequate. Most commercial birds are placed in cages (6-8 to a cage) where they can not turn around. You, on the other hand, will have very happy birds. "Chicken Tractors" are another option. They are portable coops that can be moved over the yard or garden plots, to give birds fresh bugs and greens--this also is a great way to mow the lawn!

Can I use the chicken manure in my garden?
Chicken manure is high in nitrogen, so it is considered "hot". It will need to be composted before putting it directly onto your garden. once it has broken down, it then becomes perfect food for the garden.

What do chickens eat?
They will eat just about anything! There are commercial poultry foods available at local feed stores, or you can make your own mix. People feed chickens corn, oats, wheat, rye, soy, fresh greens from the garden (weeds as well), table scraps (they love spaghetti!), worms and other bugs. The local grocery stores and markets often have vegetable scraps available. Variety is the key to good health, just like us!

What do you do with them in the winter?
They can live quite happily, through the coldest winter, if they have an insulated coop or a light inside their coop. The smaller the coop, the easier it is for them to keep it warm. Birds can get frostbite. Birds with large combs tend to be more susceptible. Also, some breeds are just hardier than others.

What do I do about freezing water in the winter?
Cherrie Nolden has several suggestions:
(I'm sure other people have other good ideas but these are all things we have used successfully)
get a small heated dog dish
use a bird bath heater in a dish
use a tough rubber 2qt feed pan. Stomp the ice out twice a day or put the bird bath heater in it
make your own small heater base with some heat tape and an old pot
wrap heating tape around the lid of a metal water font
shine a heat lamp on the water container

Are chickens safe from cats and dogs?
The key to safe chickens is a sturdy, impenetrable coop. Raccoons should be more of a concern, they are such clever, determined critters. .Make sure the structure is secure (enclosed top, fencing buried below ground under the sides, secure latches on doors or other entryways), keep all birds locked in at night, letting them out into the run or "tractor" only during the day. My cats have always been interested in the birds, but with a healthy respect for them--Dogs will chase the birds, if they are left to roam. If you let your birds out, please keep them under supervision at all times.

Keeping Chickens in Minneapolis

Raising chickens in the heart of the city

June 19, 2007

This story is about chickens, and the people who keep them. But we're not talking about farmers. We're talking about city-dwellers and the phenomenon of "urban chickens."

Minneapolis, Minn. — People who keep chickens in their yards say the trend is becoming both more popular and more acceptable.

Last year, Minneapolis issued 35 small animal permits. That's what you need to keep chickens, ducks or pigeons in the city. Once you have one, you are limited primarily by what your neighbors will tolerate.

The permitting process for getting chickens in Minneapolis isn't too difficult, but you do need permission from 80 percent of your neighbors within 100 feet of where the chickens will live.

There are Web sites, classes and workshops for would-be chicken keepers.

Peat Willcutt, a student at the University of Minnesota, teaches classes on urban chicken-raising. He recently hosted an "open coop" on Nicollet Island in Minneapolis, along with some of his neighbors, including State Rep. Phyllis Kahn.

Together, they maintain the MidRiver Co-op's coop, which consists of 30 hens, two roosters, 10 ducks and three geese. They believe it's the city's largest flock of home-raised chickens.

MPR's Tom Crann visited the "open coop" to find out what draws city dwellers to chickens.

Mankato Chickens

Published August 25, 2008 11:09 pm by the Mankato Free Press - A proposal to allow city dwellers to raise chickens drew little immediate reaction from the Mankato City Council.

Council largely mum on chickens
Advocates propose allowing residents to keep up to six fowl

By Dan Linehan
Free Press Staff Writer


Chickens, Becky Rossow and the rest of the Mankato Chicken Coalition believe, fit just as well in the backyard as they do in the farmyard.

But the Mankato City Council, when given the chance to weigh in Monday night, well, chickened out.

“I’m looking forward to the discussion,” was all Council President Mike Laven would say.

Two notable exceptions: Charlie Hurd, who prefers chickens to cats or dogs, and Vance Stuehrenberg, who fears goats, pigs and sheep would follow chickens into the city.

The flightless fowl, long consigned to the barn in the public imagination, have become something like a standard bearer for the local food movement. Cities across the state and country are crafting ordinances to explicitly allow chickens.

The movement’s Mankato incarnation is asking the City Council to allow up to six chickens to be allowed within city limits. Roosters, they say, can be banned unless the homeowner gets written permission from neighbors.

In some cities, at least, few are crying fowl.

In Winona, where an urban chicken ordinance was passed earlier this month on a 5 to 1 vote, no one spoke at a public meeting against the ordinance, City Manager Eric Sorensen said.

“Surprisingly, therewasn’t any real public opposition,” he said.

There were, however, myriad opportunities to crack wise.

“And it’s beyond ‘Why did the chicken cross the road,’” he said. “There’s some pretty sophisticated stuff out there.”

Duluth chicken advocates had a rockier road but ended up with an ordinance after a 6 to 3 council vote on Monday night, resident Marian Syrjamake-Kuchta said. She was twice reported for having chickens in the past, and had to send them on “vacation” in the country.

The City Council there repeatedly tabled the vote, and the planning commission deadlocked at 4 to 4 on the proposal. There are also some conditions — such as a ban on using chicken manure for compost — that she finds outlandish, but they’ll endure.

It will likely be months, if ever, before Mankato families can tend their own flocks.

The city, though, was prepared for the coalition’s proposal and the task fell to a planning intern to research similar ordinances in seven other Minnesota cities.

The report found wide variations in the law, with four cities allowing roosters and three not. Permit costs ranged from $20 to $200, and one city banned slaughtering, while the rest didn’t specify.

The fluctuation reflects in part the varied motivations in the Mankato coalition, which is made up of about 10 people.

Some emphasize the environmental and health benefits of eating locally and others want to educate their children or practice breeding.

Rossow would like to teach her four-year-old daughter that food doesn’t come from a supermarket.

“They’d be fun, and eggs are a bonus,” she said.

Backyard Chickens on Nightline

I feel even more validation with this feature on Nightline. Interviewed are two women in New York City who have backyard hens.

With this economy, and the focus on protecting our environment, I am very hopeful that one day soon we will be able to have hens legally in Columbus.

What in the Heck is a Chicken Tractor?

A chicken tractor is basically a portable chicken coop. By having the ability to move the coop, the lawn is able to be fertilized in different spots and the chickens are able to eat bugs and scratch in different spots.

While I don't have the facilities for my chickens YET, I am leaning toward the chicken tractor idea. I have to further investigate if this will work in the cold Wisconsin winters.

You can view more photos of chicken tractors here, courtesy of The City Chicken.

City of Baraboo to Allow Chickens!

Taken from the Baraboo News Republic
July 17, 2009

Chickens scratch out a living here: Baraboo City Council has a change of heart

By Brian D. Bridgeford / News Republic

A permit is required and neighbors can veto coops in some circumstances, but a city ordinance allowing up to six backyard chickens won preliminary approval Tuesday with three alderpersons voting in opposition.

Local chicken advocates Lydia Scott and Maia Persche appeared before the Baraboo City Council to make their case for a proposed ordinance allowing people in single-family homes in the city’s R-1 and R-1a zoning districts to raise chickens in their backyard. The ordinance requires urban chicken farmers to have a predator-proof, city-approved coop and space for the chickens to run. Owners cannot have roosters and their crowing on the property and cannot slaughter chickens in the residential zone, the ordinance states.

An unusually large crowd of about 40 people packed the City Council Chambers and it appeared most of them were there to support the girls and their chicken crusade.

"Chickens provide a great source of eggs, local and organic, and maybe even meat if you choose to have your chickens butchered," Persche said. "Daily collection of eggs does remind owners that food comes from the earth or animals, not stores."

Persche added that chickens in the garden feed themselves on bugs and young weeds,

Scott said with an insulated chicken coop there are hardy breeds of chickens which do quite well through Wisconsin winters.

"Chickens are wonderful pets," Scott said. "They are quiet, require little attention and can be quite clean if properly cared for."

Several people spoke in support of the proposed ordinance.

Baraboo resident Liz Nevers displayed to council members two plush chicken dolls she said were about the size of the poultry local residents would be using. She said she lived on a farm all her life and loved raising chickens to have fresh eggs and meat.

"Having raised hens I can say they are very quiet," she said. "Six hens will be quieter than my dachshunds,, either one of them. You don’t have to worry about rabies. You don’t have to worry about chicken bites. ... Or any of the problems you have with dogs and cats," Nevers said.

International Crane Foundation veterinarian Barry Hartup said small flocks of backyard chickens do not represent a threat of disease to the public. He noted the rare avian flu that has flared up from time to time in Asian countries has not been found in the United States.

"The current ordinance, I believe, poses little risk of disease to owners, neighbors or other pets," he said. "The threat of unusual diseases is more likely with animals kept at higher densities, such as commercial farms, than the few chickens proposed in this ordinance."

When it came to debate in the council, Alderman Phil Wedekind said he can remember back to the 1930s when chicken coops were common in Baraboo backyards and it was not all good.

"They were messy and people had chicken coops that were lean-tos on buildings and chickens in their basements," he said. "I don’t know if I want to go back to that."

Wedekind noted a provision of the ordinance that prohibits a person from getting a permit for chickens if 50 percent of neighbors notify the city they oppose the permit. He suggested the owner of any property that shares a lot line with the person wanting to raise chickens should have a veto on the permit.

Before the final vote on the ordinance Wedekind’s proposal for an absolute veto by an adjacent property owner was considered, then defeated.

Aldermen Tom Kolb and Brett Topham both said they originally had a lot of questions about whether Baraboo should have backyard chickens. However, after communicating back and forth with the two young advocates to hash out some compromises, they felt the ordinance should go ahead.

"They seem to be responsible people," Kolb said. "We’ll also have animal control officers going in there and inspecting."

"I honestly do believe that the concerns my constituents have been expressing have been put to rest," Topham said. "I believe we need to give this a shot."

The chicken ordinance won approval with Wedekind and Alderwoman Karla Vale voting in opposition.

Vale said she was disappointed there were not more people who spoke against the proposal. She said she has concerns that range from chicken feathers sparking allergy flare-up for some neighbors of coops to more foxes being attracted into Baraboo to youngsters losing interest and abandoning their birds.

"Most of the people I have talked to are against it for the reasons that I have said, the allergies, the disease, foxes, the lack of interest," she said. "I got to do what my people in my area are voicing to me."

Because it is a change in city ordinances, the permit allowing chicken coops must win approval at a second council meeting, likely at the next meeting July 28.

The Underground Chicken Movement

I can't recall what sparked my interest in chickens, but it has been niggling in the back of my mind for about five years. I perused a book from the library on raising chickens in the city, years ago, but that was as far as I got.

Until yesterday. I got the book Keep Chickens, by Barbara Kilarski, and I read the whole thing in two hours.

I am so excited to know that there are many others who have an interest in raising chickens in the city. Not just a few, mind you, but MANY! In cities like LA, San Diego, San Francisco, Miami, Atlanta, Chicago, Minneapolis, Boston, and Madison!

Columbus has a municipal code agains the keeping of Chickens and other farm animals:

Sec. 14-7. Keeping of animals.
No person shall keep, sell or offer for sale any horses, cows, pigs, goats, sheep, bees, rabbits, chickens, geese, ducks or other fowl, or any domestic animal, except as provided in section 14-11, or construct or use shelters therefore within the city without the authorization of the city council. Applications for permits shall be made to the clerk. This section shall not apply to the keeping of small caged birds, small caged animals or reptiles or aquatic and amphibian animals, kept solely as pets.

If very large municipalities see the benefit, I feel as I have hope in my little town.

I need to get organized, and see if there are others in Columbus who are on board with such a crazy idea. Let this new adventure begin!