What's Wrong With a Little Poultry?

Why are chickens such a big deal? My two cents? It's all about appearances and ego.

Oh, the noble chicken, so slandered and misunderstood. Salmonella-carrying, rat-attracting, coyote-bait, loud-mouthed, stinking feather dusters. These are just some of the insulting terms thrown around about chickens. I checked with some local chickens, and they did confirm that they find these terms insulting.*

As some residents may be aware, I recently had the opportunity to present to the Geneva City Council and ask them to consider allowing backyard hens in Geneva. Unfortunately, the straw man poll came down to 5-5 and the mayor cast the tie-breaking vote of no.

I was pleased with how close it was, but obviously would have been more pleased with a definite victory. However, I refuse to take a straw man poll as a definite defeat.

So, let's get the obvious ones out of the way. If you have backyard chickens you are not increasing your risk of salmonella, and in fact would be decreasing it. Factory farms were directly responsible for the Salmonella outbreak of 2010, during the peak of which there were 200 reported cases of Salmonella a week!

As far as pests go, rats and mice aren't looking for a chicken dinner. They are looking for leftover feed. Keep your coop clean and it won't be an issue.

Predators have to be the most confusing objection to backyard hens I have heard yet. Ok, so yeah, these guys ARE looking for a chicken dinner. However, almost every night I hear coyotes or foxes, and chase raccoons out of my driveway. Ug, and skunks! These animals are already here. It's not like if Geneva allows backyard chicken coops it will cause a coyote baby-boom. An ordinance that specifies completely enclosed coops would prevent predation.

Technically, the chickens were rejected on budgetary grounds. For some reason, it seems we can't just copy and paste Batavia's chicken ordinance, but would need to dedicate teams to research chickens and how to make them work in Geneva. Apparently, Batavia is such a different community than Geneva that what works for them won't work for us. It must be the difference in climate? Or perhaps soil quality? Population?

I think what this really comes down to is a NIMBY issue. While issuing his vote, the Mayor stated that he wouldn't want his neighbors having chickens. My boss told me I was forgetting to factor in the "white trash factor." I think it goes the same way as clotheslines. Somehow along the way we have turned into a society that sneers upon anyone who does anything for themselves. If you don't pay someone to do it for you, or buy it at a store, or use electricity to accomplish it...well then, you must be poor. And we all know how Geneva feels about appearing poor. I think that is why Geneva will allow firepits, but ban clothesline and chickens.

Unfortunately, considering the sad state of the economy and the poor nutrition to be found on our grocery store shelves, not to mention the undeniable effects of climate change, I think that this aversion to anything that may be considered "low-class" is taking Geneva, and many other communities, in the completely wrong direction. We should be focusing on becoming more local with our food and our economy. We should be making that a goal of ours, a real one, not just a feather in our cap.

It's become more apparent every day that the big-scale government isn't going to do anything to protect our health and our environment, but I sure wish my local government would allow me to take steps to protect myself. I am not even asking that they help, just that they don't prevent it.  

*Asterisk indicates completely imaginary content

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Rick Anderson August 25, 2012 at 03:07 AM
........and why not put high efficency wood burning furnances in our backyard to provide inexpensive winter warmth to our homes and clean chicken coops.
thefunkychicken August 25, 2012 at 11:32 AM
Only Geneva would ban clothes lines in a the days of conserving resources. I love my clothes line and my savings on my gas and electric bill.
Agrippina Minor August 25, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Well put! Solidarity from Joliet!
Max August 25, 2012 at 07:00 PM
If you think we are infested with raccoons and the like now, wait until our neighbors who can't be bothered to keep a pristine coop and pen start leaving feed all around. Personally, I'm in favor of back-yard chickens, but there will be repercussions for all of us due to any who treat the process casually. Perhaps an annual permit fee would weed out the simply curious and uncommitted.
Kate Bennett August 25, 2012 at 07:59 PM
That is a completely ridiculous association. I am not saying we should go back to the dark ages here, just that chickens would be a benefit to our community.
Kate Bennett August 25, 2012 at 08:01 PM
I have read that there is a state law that prohibits such a ban by municipalities. I need to do some more research on it before I can be sure though. The law supposedly states that municipalities and counties are not allowed to restrict residents' access to solar power. I can't find the actual law itself, just a couple blurbs about it here and there.
Kate Bennett August 25, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Kate Bennett August 25, 2012 at 08:02 PM
Max, I think a yearly permit fee is a great idea, for multiples reasons. Not only would it help make sure only people who were serious about it would do it, but it might also help get the city on board. Anything that generates revenue would be great, even if it's just a drop in the bucket.
Mike Bruno August 26, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Like the community garden plots we have, maybe we could have community coops.
Rick Anderson August 26, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Why the fowl mood Kate? You act as though you have the only greatest idea for the backyard. Don't discount what others might like to have in their backyard to save $$$. Read up on how high efficency wood burning furnances are among the top selling items for homeowners that want to save $$$.
Kate Bennett August 26, 2012 at 08:56 PM
My apologies, Rick. I honestly thought you were being sarcastic and that high-efficiency + wood burning meant you were joking. Obviously, I have some google-fu to do on high efficiency woodburning stoves.
Kate Bennett August 26, 2012 at 08:57 PM
That's a great idea!
Penny Gebhardt August 27, 2012 at 12:48 PM
I live in St Charles and have had 2 chickens for over a year. My next door neighbor didn't even know I had them until I told her. I found it interesting that when I offered a friend from Geneva a few eggs, she declined the offer as she was worried they would not be as safe as those from the store!
Kate Bennett August 28, 2012 at 12:27 AM
That IS funny, considering how many people have gotten sick from store-bought eggs. I am jealous of your chickens.
Gina August 30, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Penny we are trying to change the ordinance in Palatine. Would your neighbors be willing to write a letter regarding the lack of knowing the chickens were there until you told them? The couple that tried to obtain a varriance was shot down over one objecting neighbor and one objecting email. We need all the supprort we can get.
Gina August 30, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Kate, what a great contribution to the Patch! I believe fear and ignorance is leading the deicision makers. They have a responsibility to educate themselves if they are going to hold such a position within your village. You know so many people dismissed the need to recycle and conserve our resources. Now look at us. Backyard chickens is just the next step of green sustainable living. I would also like to point out the people who want to take on this commitment are dedicated to their own health and concern for the environment. By addressing these two issues these families are not only improving their own health but the health of the community as one effects the other. I wish you all the best. Do not give up! Persistence and passion!


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