Animal Law

Urbanites Crow About Maybe-Legal Pets

Concerned about the quality of their food or seeking an enjoyable experience, a growing number of city families these days are keeping a new kind of pet: backyard chickens.

The trend is hard to quantify, because no one keeps statistics, but Backyard Poultry magazine is booming compared to its Medford, Wis.-based sister publications, sheep! Magazine and Dairy Goat Journal, reports the Associated Press. Meanwhile, residents throughout the country, like Sarah Hempel Irani, 29, of Frederick, Md., are trying to change laws that prohibit keeping chickens in some municipalities.

While crowing roosters obviously can be a noisy nuisance in urban areas, big cities including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York allow families to keep backyard hens with minimal restrictions, according to AP. “People think they’re loud and smelly, but my chickens would be a lot quieter and tidier than what people think,” says Irani. Among other efforts, she has started a blog, called Urban Chicken Underground, to try to persuade Frederick officials to lift their chicken ban.

“I’ve had calls from Lexington, Ky., Vancouver, British Columbia, towns in Alaska; many places are trying to get the city to permit chickens,” Karen Luetjen tells the newspaper. She is executive director of Seattle Tilth, an urban food gardening group.

Proponents cite an endless supply of delicious organic eggs, the fun children have collecting them, and the calming effect of watching chickens hunt for bugs and “talk” together in your own backyard. “It’s like Easter every day,” says Sophia Genco, 9, whose family keeps backyard chickens in suburban Dallas, Texas.

Other blogs promoting the residential chicken-keeping trend include Jane’s Backyard Chickens, an aficionado’s journal, and My Pet Chicken, a New Jersey chicken supplier project that also provides free information about caring for the birds and cooking their eggs.

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