Whole lotta clucking going on in cities
More Americans raise chickens in their backyards
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Those girls are hens: Alice, Ester, Penelope, Petunia, Sophie, and Winifred. So the couple wanted a yard with an ample mix of sun and shade so the flock could soak in the rays, take dust baths, and nap under leafy trees.
After several weeks, they found the perfect place.
"Once you have chickens, it's really hard to live without them," says Ms. Taylor, a former biology teacher who's now a stay-at-home mom.
She and her husband, Andrew Gould, aren't the only ones who've discovered this. They're part of a growing nationwide trend – city dwellers raising poultry in backyards, mostly out of concern for where their food is coming from.
"You hear all these horror stories about factory farms, and you want a higher ethical standard for the food that you have," said Angelina Shell of the Seattle Tilth Association, a group that offers sustainable-living classes. Most chickens are kept for their eggs, she adds.
The communities of Fort Collins, Colo.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Wake Forest, N.C.; have passed laws allowing residents to keep a limited number of backyard birds. Other chicken-friendly cities include New York; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Salt Lake City.
Fresh eggs for breakfast aren't the only benefit of raising chickens, say hobbyists. The birds provide organic fertilizer, and their appetite for pesky weeds and bugs helps gardens thrive.
"If our economy continues on the downward spiral," says Ms. Shell, a third-generation poultry hobbyist, "you're going to see a lot more people raising their own chickens in their backyards and starting up vegetable gardens."
Still, chickens aren't always popular with neighbors in city and suburban neighborhoods.
Chicago Alderman Lona Lane proposed a citywide chicken ban late last year after constituents bombarded her office with complaints about noise, odor, and rodents. But chicken enthusiasts from other parts of the Windy City cried fowl, stalling a final decision. After the holidays, Ms. Lane plans on introducing a new bill to ban chickens in just the neighborhood she represents.
In cities where chickens are legal, regulations usually limit the number of hens to three or four. Most prohibit roosters because of early-morning crowing, and slaughtering is strictly forbidden.
Some critics, in an effort to keep birds out of urban areas, raise concerns about avian influenza. But Michael Martin, a poultry veterinarian at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, doesn't believe there's any cause for concern.
"The risk of a human becoming exposed before we knew anything about any kind of poultry disease is pretty much nonexistent," he says.