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