7 False Myths About Urban Chickens

Listen to NPR & BBC Civic Soapbox Interview about the 7 Myths Click Here

Why You Want to Keep—and Employ—a Family Flock

There is a massive back-to-the-land, and local foods movement that is happening around the world. This time, the back-to-the-land is to peoples’ backyards and small, local, diversified family farms. Chickens are the cornerstone enablers to enhance these movements.

Millions of people are rediscovering the advantages, charms and skill sets of chickens.

People, of all ages, are getting smitten with their chicks, and developing green thumbs by learning to grow food in backyards, and community gardens all across the country.

As folks across the country get their flocks, many are wondering how to keep and employ them. There is a gap in our cultural knowledge about how to keep, handle and employ poultry. It was shortly after the end of World War II, in 1945, that chickens were sent to factory farms and disappeared from the urban—and much of the rural—landscape. Family flocks have been absent in our daily lives for just about 4 generations (70 years). A lot has changed in the ways of keeping chickens.

It’s time to think outside the coop—and inside local food production with poultry.

New tried-and-true ways of keeping mini-flocks, and small-scale poultry management has evolved. Now, chickens are valued not only to provide eggs and meat, but also for their skill sets of being fertilizer and top soil creators, insecticiders, herbiciders, biomass recyclers, entertainers, therapy chickens, and and much, much more. So much more, that the Chicken Have More Plan and the Occupy Backyards Movement can help families and communities to become more food self-sufficient and at the same time, dramatically decrease carbon footprints.

Many towns and cities are struggling with legalizing city chicks. Many of the myths are replaces with facts in the 7 Myths of Urban Chickens essay that played in NPR and BBC.

There are many false beliefs and prejudices about keeping chickens. Here’s the facts about each issue.

Myth 1. Urban Chickens Carry Diseases
Fact: small flocks have literally no risk of avian flu transmission to humans. Centers for Disease Control states on their website: “There is no need at present to remove a family flock of chickens because of concerns regarding avian flu.” The 2006 Grain Report states: “When it comes to bird flu, diverse small-scale poultry is the solution, not the problem.” Salmonella is a food handling sanitary problem, not an avian problem.

Myth 2. Chickens are Noisy
Fact: laying hens — at their loudest — have about the same decibel level as human conversation (65 decibels). There are cases of flocks being kept for years without the next door neighbors knowing it. Roosters make most of the noise. They have about the same decibel level as a barking dog (90 decibels), but the crows are shrill, and they begin their serenade before dawn to welcome the sunrise. Many times they’re not allowed in urban areas specifically because of their crowing.

Myth 3. Waste and Odor
Fact: a forty pound dog generates more doggie-do (about ¾ pound) than ten chickens (two-thirds pounds of daily poo). Both poops are smelly, but the key is to keep the chicken manure from accumulating by composting. Composted chicken manure is valuable as a high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Myth 4. Chickens Attract Predators, Pests & Rodents
Fact: Predators and rodents are already living in urban areas. Wild bird feeders, pet food, gardens, fish ponds, bird baths, trash waiting to be collected all attract raccoons, foxes, rodents and flies. Modern micro-flock coops, such as chicken tractors, elevated coops, and fencing provide ways of keeping, and managing, family flocks that eliminate concerns about such pests.
And about those pests . . . chickens are voracious carnivores and will seek and eat just about anything that moves including ticks (think Lymes disease), fleas, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, stink bugs, slugs, even mice, baby rats and small snakes.

Myth 5. Property Values Will Decrease

Fact: 7 out of 10 cities on Forbes Magazine’s “Most Desirable Cities” List for 2010 allow Backyard Chickens”.
Fact: There is not one documented case that a home property value decreased due to a family flock next door. In truth, some Realtors and Home Sellers are offering free coops with every sale. This emphasizes the values of green neighborhoods, and residents who value local, healthy food supply and respect the environment.

Myth 6. Coops are Ugly
Fact: micro-flock coop designs can be totally charming, upscale and even whimsical. Common design features include blending in with the local architectural, matching the slope of the roof and complementing color schemes.

Myth 7. What Will Neighbors Think?
Fact: you can’t control what anyone thinks, much less your neighbor. But, in my experience, once folks understand the advantages and charms of chickens, most prejudice and fear evaporates; especially when you share some heart-healthy, good-for-you eggs from your hens.

Requiring neighbors’ consent is a civil liberties violation and an offensive to the American way. You don’t need neighbor’s consent to breed pit bulls, have machine guns, rev motorcycles or have a house-load of kids. So why should keeping a family flock of chickens need to be approved by some crazed-control-mongering-not-enough-to-do neighbor!

Civic Chicks are Valuable Assets
Often overlooked is the value of chickens as clucking civic bio-recyclers. They can divert tons of “waste” from the trash collections. Chickens will eat just about any kitchen “waste”, including “gone-by” leftovers that have seasoned in the refrigerator. Combine their manure with grass clippings and leaves to create compost and top soil.

Chickens are charming, amicable and entertaining beings that bring so many advantages to local agriculture and home gardens. They are truly “pets with benefits”.

May the flock be with you!


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