Did you know that the city of New York currently allows for the keeping of both bees and chickens? Sure do. With that in mind, I did some reading last night on the city of Holyoke debating the issue of allowing residents to keep chickens.
I don’t know why I expected to find a report from both sides of the story, because I didn’t. What I found instead was a story told entirely from the side of those against the idea. And to fuel that sentiment, the story included a picture of a rooster freely roaming a city street, knee-jerk comments about how chickens smell (I’ll get to that…), and, sadly, a dollop of racism in the form of a reference to urban chickens as giving a “Third World feel”, that was immediately followed by a comment about raising chickens as being a part of the Puerto Rican culture.
This left the gate wide open for all manner of commenters to explode the issue of permitting people with yards to have hens into every single Puerto Rican in Holyoke raising chickens in their cabinets, and of course, cock fights. Its the same bullshit logic that starts with same sex couples giving loving homes to adopted children, and ends with the vast homosexual plot to end all breeding and subdue the nation in a phenomenal wave of buggery.
On a somewhat related note, if the Rapture is going to take away people who think like that… could we schedule that for this weekend?
What stood out to me the most (other than the complete lack of an interview with anyone who already raises urban hens) was that every argument made in this article against allowing urban chicken raising in Holyoke could also be made for dogs.
Chickens make a lot of noise. No, dogs make a lot of noise – barking, howling, and whining all night long. Only roosters are noisy. Happy hens are sonically invisible. Urban rooster raising is pointless. It’s hens that people want, for their eggs. I’m in the countryside and I don’t even want roosters. They’re good for three things: making more chickens (problem solved by chicks for sale at Tractor Supply), defending the flock (problem solved by an enclosed run) and Dinner (problem solved with a buttermilk dip and deep frying.) And while we’re on roosters…
Allowing chickens will mean more cock fighting, and a stretching of police resources to combat it. By that logic, allowing dogs means more dog fighting. Yeah. Michael Vick didn’t go down for illegal cock fighting. And what’s with the arguement that the police will have a hard time enforcing a new law? What are they assuming, that everyone’s gonna break it at once? Or do they just want to have to enforce the sexier laws? Or the ones with big fines? Or the oldest ones? If so, I’m sure glad we got arson, murder and theft on the books first.
Chickens smell. No, chickens themselves do not smell. A wet chicken doesn’t smell like anything. A wet dog? Hell,wet dog is a smell unto itself. Chicken droppings smell, just like any other animal dropping, and only if they are not cleaned up. Chicken dropping: small. Dog droppings: large. Chicken droppings would be confined to the coop, or even a yard. And where do urban dogs crap? The yard if you have one, the neighbor’s yard or the sidewalk if you don’t. Also, you can compost chicken droppings back into soil. Dog crap, at the best, ends up in landfills. It’s no better than baby crap, just minus the diapers.
Chickens attract mites. Chickens don’t attract mites any more than you attract mosquitoes, alcohol, or a poorly chosen companions. I could counter that dogs attract ticks. At least mites don’t carry Lyme Disease. And chickens eat ticks. Any animal that’s neglected can wind up sick and diseased. Healthy animals are not parasitic.
Chickens are “gateway livestock”. From the article: “If you can have a chicken, why can’t I have a goat? If you can have a goat, why can’t I have a horse? Then someone will want to have pigs.” To this I say, BRAVO! We need more people interested in the responsible and ethical raising of livestock. Too many people are out of touch touch with where their food comes from. Maybe if they start with chickens, they’ll end up moving out of the city, simplifying their life, and raising a little of their own food instead of relying on a secretive supply chain to deliver it. That being said, some livestock is just too big for an urban setting. Goats, horses and pigs can’t be cage raised. They need room to move to be healthy. So do chickens. Three backyard hens could thrive on 10 square feet and still have a better life than commercial laying hens, that are confined to spaces that may not even allow standing. More to the point, the argument that allowing one thing always progressively leads to more and more outrageous things is bunk. Allowing dogs inside city limits hasn’t led to wolves, cheetahs, ocelots and ostriches, nor would any reasonable person argue it. A cheetah would be cool, though.
Chickens carry avian influenza (or for those of you who prefer the scarier buzz phrase, bird flu). *Sigh* Being afraid that you’re going to get bird flu from your neighbor’s chickens is like being afraid that you’re going to get rabies from your neighbor’s dog. Important to note: just because a animal can catch a disease does not mean it will, nor does it mean that it has it all the time.
In rapid fire closing, let me also point out that while the issue at hand is about outdoor housing of chickens, they can, with time and patience, be house trained, just like a dog. Chickens scratch up the grass, but a dog will scratch and chew up furniture. The ottoman won’t grow back. Chickens will molt their feathers once a year. Dogs shed all the time. Hens will give you eggs. Dogs will vommit on your rug. Dogs bite. Chickens are skiddish. Dogs are expensive to buy and keep. Chicks can be purchased for under 5 bucks, and a $20 bag of feed will feed three full grown hens for a month. And finally, when you’re done with your chickens, you can put them on the table. Dog… not so much.