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

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