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I’ve heard of henpecked neighbors before, but this is something new: Ft. Collins, CO may join Boulder, Denver, Portland, Ore., Seattle, and Madison, WI as urban places that allow residents to keep chickens in their backyards as pets. Proponents of the measure argue that it’s a fantastic new greening tool: They say keeping chickens is a great way to both eliminate organic waste and grow your own healthy, locally-produced food.
“Even if I knew our oil supply was indefinite and our transportation system wasn’t going to collapse, I would still be convinced this is a better way to live,” said (Todd) Simmons, 32, who raises 35 chickens for his family on 10 acres just outside Fort Collins.
“I’m a firm believer in sustainability and a secure food source,” (Fort Collins plan proponent Dan) Brown said. “And this is a great opportunity for children to see where their food comes from.”
Many types of food scraps can be used for chicken feed, and the chickens act as natural composters: Their waste can in turn be used as fertilizer for gardens and lawns. In Belgium, recycling rates rose 72 percent after the institution of backyard chicken programs, and most backyard chicken programs in U.S. cities have been hailed as successes with little complaint.
That’s not to say their wouldn’t be restrictions: Chicken enthusiasts could only own up to six hens in Ft. Collins, contained within a pen 15 feet away from property boundaries. Slaughtering the chickens would be banned, as would roosters…which would seem to make the creation of eggs, erm, problematic (visiting roosters?). *
Some worry about diseases like avian flu, but backyard-chicken fans claim that properly maintained coops won’t spread disease. If everyone had chicken coops for egg making and bought or traded them with neighbors, some think it could even cut down on fuel consumption for shipping eggs and egg products. As a bonus, your eggs would be both tastier and healthier than mass-produced egg varieties.
What say you, dear readers: Are backyard chickens an egg-cellent idea, or just clucked-up? (Sorry.)
— Ted Alvarez
* Several helpful readers have pointed out that hens don’t need roosters to lay eggs. I stand thankfully corrected — it just goes to show you what happens when you don’t pay attention on your field trip to the farm in kindergarten.