The Underground Chicken Movement

October 11, 2008


What lies stealthily behind those innocent looking suburb and urban fences across the United States? Henhouses! With CHICKENS! It’s an illicit movement rapidly spreading across the country, ruffling the feathers of city ordinance boards.

The Worldwatch Institute reports that a growing number of US city-dwellers are raising their own chickens, often in defiance of local ordinances.

Citing unsanctioned henhouses in Denver, Boston, and other cities, Worldwatch’s Ben Block notes that an “underground ‘urban chicken’ movement has swept across the United States in recent years,” flouting authorities’ concerns about noise, odors, and public health.

But in some cities, such as Ann Arbor, Mich., Ft. Collins, Colo., South Portland, Maine, and Madison, Wisc., owners of these clandestine coops have successfully changed the laws to allow them to keep a limited number of hens. (Roosters, whose characteristic crowing can disturb neighbors, are usually more restricted, but they’re not needed for hens to lay unfertilized eggs.)

I have been trying to convince my husband that we need chickens. After all the exposure of the corrupt and dirty food factory industries and CAFOs (such as salmonella poisoning, Mad Cow disease, melamine in dairy, etc), I am ready to start raising my own poultry and limit our consumption of beef and pork. Mr. M says he doesn’t think our area is zoned for poultry. However, one neighbor of ours has a few horses, and another neighbor runs a small wildlife refuge with peacocks, geese, and a rooster.

Which reminds me: Did you know that roosters do not only crow at sunrise? Nay! I can tell you from experience that roosters crow ALL day and ALL night, and very loudly, too! But I defend the right of my neighbor to keep her chickens, I do!

Many large US cities, including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, and Seattle apparently never thought to ban the domesticated fowl within city limits. These cities have served as an incubator of sorts for the emerging movement, in which urban henkeepers post online tips on building coops, caring for the birds, and fending off raccoons and other predators.

Zoning ordinances are for the people, not the people for zoning ordinances. If the residents want to change the city’s pecking orders, they should be allowed to do so.

I also tend to believe that the real ‘fowl’ play is coming from the state and local governments, who are not too pleased that people are strating to take their own food supply into their own hands. The food industry is BIG business.

So UP WITH CHICKENS! Chicken-keepers, unite! A chicken in every pot! For those who think we’re going back to the “trust us, the food supply is perfectly safe” schpiel, you’re cuckoo!

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10 Responses to “The Underground Chicken Movement”

  1. Karen Says:

    This is so interesting. I stumbled it but forgot that I am on hubby’s computer so it is stumbled by Lynn. If it wouldn’t take time from my blogging, I might consider getting some chickens myself.

  2. Rich Dansereau Says:

    LOL! This is a great way to present a couple of serious subjects. I am with you 100% that zoning laws are for the benefit of the people and have to be able to be changed as the times dictate. I am also with you on people taking a more active role in their food production. I have a large organic garden that produces most of my veggies for the years and I also have 11 hens that should be ready to start laying this month or next. I do live in a suburb of Knoxville, TN and chicken is allowed. The same thing was true when I lived in south Florida and had chickens as well. Good luck with your efforts!

  3. Alan Says:

    I think it’s cheaper just to get them at the grocery market and easier.

  4. Doug Says:

    Yes! And you can add Missoula, Montana, to cities that have revised ordinances to allow urban chickens! (No worse than our urban whitetail deer, and chickens know how to cross a road.)

    Roosters remain on the “outlaw” list, however.

  5. Shinade Says:

    What a great topic today. Oh there is nothing as delicious as your own fresh eggs.

    Here’s an old old wives tale for you handed down from the Irish mother who raised me.

    It’s kind of morbid but here it is:

    “If a rooster crows during the night then there will be a death in the family.”

    I am not superstitious of course. but, I have a ton of these little tidbits…some good and some not so good….that I heard all of my life from my mom.

    Happy week:-)

  6. Steven Wilson Says:

    All towns should allow a certain number of chickens there is nothing more relaxing than setting back under the shade tree watching the chickens scratch.

  7. Ivory Soap Says:

    Yee-haw, underground chickens! By the way, thank you for that gorgeous post featuring our blog. U R the BEST! I put you on our blogroll today.

    And in my town, we are still zoned for “fenced poultry.” LOL! So my chicks aren’t ‘underground’ per se, but I support it none the less.

    I do have to point out that roosters are nuisance pets around here. We don’t have one. We want eggs, not baby chicks, so WHO CARES that we can’t have roosters. And I don’t want to get up at 4AM anyway! You?


  8. Mrs. M Says:

    Thanks, Karen!

    I see chickens are supportive of the local human population… lol.

    Alan, it may be less expensive and easier to buy eggs and pre-cut chickens in the store, but the reason why I like chickens is because they are an easy livestock animal to keep that helps maintain a self-sufficient lifestyle. I don’t trust the food supply anymore– did you know that some chickens are fed the remains of other dead birds, and antibiotics? And if meat and eggs prices go sky-high with this impending inflation that our government seemes determined to create, the sustainable homesteader is prepared. That’s why I want chickens– to have a cleaner and safer food supply and to be prepared when/if things go down.

    Thanks for your comments, folks. We’ve got quite a bunch of cut ups around here! LOL

  9. Kelly Says:

    Like Alan says it is much easier to get them at the store. The problem is I have had chickens for over 30 years and I almost gag on the runny odorous eggs from the store.

    I keep chickens because I enjoy them. I don’t waste food as they eat nearly all leftovers from the table. During the warmer months they get over 50% of the food they need from the land, and the droppings create the best fertilizer there is if composted properly.

    I consider it stupid to take citizens right’s away by not letting them have chickens. The crow of a rooster will blend with the noises around a neighborhood much better than the sounds of trucks, squealing tires, and the like. Actually if you have one in the neighborhood, most people won’t even hear it after a few days.

  10. Lena Says:

    Gardening is one of those things that takes a constant vigilance and dedication to the overall outcome.