Daily Archives: September 11, 2008

The Thing About Chickens

With Chickens
There’s been a dialogue going on in our town for a few months about chickens. Sonoma has long been an agricultural town and was well known for its flock of chickens living in our town square. The chickens were quickly removed a few years ago after a visiting child was pecked by one of the roosters. It was quite a hot topic of discussion back then and now chickens are back in the news.

A local farming advocate, Bob Cannard, is proposing, among things, that the city relax its guidelines on keeping backyard chickens. His thought is that more families should be able to have chickens to raise for eggs and for butchering. He’s voiced that families should be allowed to become more self sufficient with their food supplies, which is something that we completely agree with. He’s also proposing that raised beds and chicken coops be included in all new Sonoma housing development backyards. Wonderful.

After having chickens in our backyard for a year, ourselves, we support his argument completely, well, except for a few things. He would like the City to relax its guidelines to allow families to have at least 20 hens and roosters at any one time. That’s a awful lot and I’ll tell you why.

First of all, chickens, even hens can be loud. The content little clucking they do as they search for bugs is adorable, but this loud screeching that our ladies are doing now can drive you nuts. If my next door neighbor had 20 of these squawking feathery friends, that would be hard to live next to. But that’s just the hens. Roosters are even louder. Granted, hearing a rooster crow in the distance in the morning is a really wonderful sound. It just gives you that great country feel, but when it was right outside our window, we just felt bad for our neighbors that we had such a loud pet. When you buy baby chicks, you are given that 90% of them will be females, so chances are that if you get a handful, at least one will turn out to be a rooster. Once our rooster grew up, he was crowing at all hours and became pretty aggressive. Anytime a hen crossed her path, he’d violently jump on her and hold her head in the dirt. He also pecked our oldest son right under his eye. Twice. That action right there sealed his fate of going into the stew pot.

That brings me to butchering. It’s a hard thing to do. We did it because we felt as meat eaters, it was something we had to do, at least once. So that we wouldn’t take for granted what we buy at the market. Not ony was it difficult to kill something that we had come to know as a pet, but it’s a lot of messy, bloody, feathery hard work. To imagine that your average family would want to butcher a flock of their own chickens is far fetched, I think. Would you have the guts to do it?

I don’t want to discourage anyone from having chickens. They are very entertaining and we relish the four eggs a day we get from them. But I think 20 chickens in someones downtown backyard is just too many. Maybe it should be kept at 2-4 hens if you live in a standard size lot and 20 chickens if you live on half an acre or so. In the end, I’ve kept my mouth shut and words away from the town newspaper and City Council meetings, because I don’t know how to support Mr. Cannard. On one hand, I would love to see more people become self sufficient and raise their own nutritious egg layers. On the other hand, sometimes chickens don’t make the best neighbors.

Does your town allow chickens in our backyards? How would you feel if your neighbor had 20 chickens? Kale for Sale just posted about her first chicken harvest, go read about it.

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