Urban chickens. That’s the latest trend for those city dwellers who want to have a hand in raising their own food. Across the country, people are joining the national urban chicken movement, often going against local ordinances to do so.
Supporters say the movement started with the rationale that raising chickens fits well with efforts to raise local and pure foods. Those supporters also call the eggs “fresh” and “flavorful,” and many call the chickens entertaining pets.
In many instances, cities are going along with the movement, changing laws to allow residents to raise a limited number of chickens. Madison, Wis., began allowing chickens in 2004, and New York City has long allowed the birds. Other cities where you can legally raise chickens include Chicago; Albuquerque, N.M.; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle, Wash.
Most urban chicken owners say they are raising the birds for the eggs, not the potential chicken dinner. One must assume that complaints from city neighbors would increase significantly if they regularly witnessed a chicken-plucking next door.
But the urban chicken movement underscores both how ill-informed consumers are and how poorly American agriculture has communicated with those consumers. The urban chicken owners believe the eggs taste better and are healthier for their families. And many mention a cost savings.
Alas, there are still some thoughtful messages coming from what’s left of newspapers in the heartland. Regarding urban chickens, The Kansas City Star asks, “What’s the point?” The Star rightly notes that there are health and sanitation issues that come with a handful of chickens in backyards across the city.
“As for the cost savings. Really?” The Star asks. “Building a coop, putting up the proper fencing, buying chicks and raising and feeding a handful of them is going to result in a significant savings? At best, those savings are chicken feed. —Greg Henderson, editor