Urban Chicken

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An Urban chicken or backyard chicken is a chicken kept in a city. The primary reasons for keeping chickens are the food and income made by selling the eggs and meat. Other reasons include use in ceremonies and as gifts or even as pets. Keeping chickens in an urban environment is associated with the ‘Urban Agriculture Movement,’ which is the growing practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in cities.

Keeping livestock in cities has been common throughout history and is still practiced in many parts of the world. For example, 50,000 pigs were being kept in Manhattan in 1859. But local ordinances were created to limit this, owing to the noise and smell nuisance, and these were relaxed only in times of war when the urban populace was encouraged to provide food for itself.

In Canada and the USA, the raising of chickens in urban surroundings has become increasingly popular. For example, in Madison, Wisconsin, citizens formed a group called the ‘Chicken Underground,’ overturned a ban upon domestic chickens and there are now 81 registered owners. A film titled ‘Mad City Chickens’ was made about their campaign.

Studies have shown that small scale, backyard chicken keeping/egg production reduces potential disease risks associated with factory farming such as salmonella. Backyard egg production has been suggested as a solution to sustainable, healthy food supply for families.

There are some common concerns associated with the practice of raising chickens in the city, specifically noise, odor, attraction of predators/pests, property values, and health. Most chicken owners say that these myths and misconceptions about chickens and their behavior are central to issues surrounding passage of city ordinances and regulations necessary for the keeping of urban chickens.

In some areas, roosters are banned, and only hens are allowed, and in limited numbers, to prevent problems with noise. Hens are relatively quiet as compared to pet dogs, though hens often vocalize after an egg is laid for a few minutes. The noise level during this squawking period has been measured at around 63 decibels, or about the level of two people talking. Other than post-laying squawking, normal hen sounds are not audible at 25 feet (7.6 m).

In Columbia, South Carolina it was argued that a leaf blowers were far louder than chickens, that dogs produce more waste than chickens do, so neither of those concerns were a valid reason to keep a ban on them. In 1926 in Oakland California, the department of public health and safety issued an order to, ‘put your roosters in a light proof coop, or devise apparatus that will hold the rooster’s head down so he can’t crow’ in response to complaints about the noise they were making. If they couldn’t see any light, it was believed that they wouldn’t know it was morning and wouldn’t crow.

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