Janet Sheridan: They (chickens) are on their way
July 7, 2011
The chickens are coming — pecking, molting, cackling, and scratching their way across America.
Large cities and small towns are rolling out red carpets and gearing up welcome wagons for hens willing to live a rooster-less life.
Craig Police Chief Walt Vanatta recently warned our city council that chickens could soon strut into Craig as well, an influx welcomed by a majority of the respondents to a Craig Daily Press poll who approved both chickens and goats inside city limits.
What wonderful news!
I've never had the opportunity to develop an emotional bond with goats, but I've identified with chickens since dressing as a Rhode Island Red for a sales event at the Utah Poultry and Farmer's Cooperative where I worked while in high school.
During past months, news items have revived my interest in befriending chickens, an attraction that had warped with time to an interest in eating them, which made me feel bad.
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The resurgence of my fondness for poultry began with a brief news item in The Denver Post: a person in a chicken costume walked into a Durango City Council meeting during a discussion about regulations needed for an ordinance approving backyard fowl.
The chicken entered the meeting, circled the room while flapping its wings, then took a seat, crossed its legs, and sat quietly, extraordinary behavior for a chicken.
The article didn't mention its breed.
The civic-minded hen could have been a Jersey Giant, Easter Egger, Plymouth Rock, or Leghorn, but we'll never know.
It also failed to discuss the bird's motivation: Did it support or oppose the ordinance? Did it want to suggest a rule, like all urban chickens will be allowed to die of natural causes? Perhaps it wanted to protest the discrimination against roosters found in city ordinances. Or did it attend simply because nothing was happening back at the coop?
Nor was the impact of the chicken's attendance described. Was it invited to address the council at a later date? Was it appointed to a committee to study the issue?
Perhaps it skulked away in disappointment — comb hanging and wings a-droop. Or it might have gone berserk — trotting, clucking, and shaking its wattle. More likely, it turned broody, perched in a corner, and pecked those who tried to move it.
I'd like to know these things.
Steamboat Springs allows chickens, up to five hens per single family in an urban area, if housed in an approved structure.
My mind runs amok thinking about approved chicken housing in Steamboat and the extensive landscaping undoubtedly required.
Chickens have also taken up residence in Denver after months of surveys, contentious meetings, and impassioned comment: "Chickens already live in the city, and they deserve to be decriminalized!"
Since June, poultry groupies in Denver can notify their neighbors, get a $20 permit, and install up to eight hens. They'll no longer be able to walk barefoot in their backyards, but they'll know if the eggs they fry for breakfast are truly organic.
I read on the Internet that chickens are ideal city residents because they are one of the smallest protein producers people can raise.
Count your blessings. How would you like your neighbor to install appropriately housed heifers, ostriches or Berkshire pigs?
The article also listed the disadvantages of hens in the neighborhood: they cluck incessantly; their coops can smell bad; and they could attract flies and predators.
What a picture: coyotes wandering city streets, looking for a noisy, fly-infested, foul smelling, fast food restaurant.
Were that to happen, I predict more than a squawking chicken would show up at city council meetings.