Group advocates backyard hens as part of local food movement

Sunday, June 5, 2011 at 9:05pm
ChickensMain.jpg
Jude Ferrara (SouthComm) 

The group Urban Chickens Advocates of Nashville recently celebrated its first year of existence. The ambitious citizens have a Facebook page with more than 400 followers, a set of colorful literature and a broad range of supporters, some of them influential. 

Still, UCAN has yet to advance its central conceit: legislation that would allow wide-scale ownership of hens — for the purposes of producing organic eggs — within Davidson County’s Urban Services District. 

Well before the “sustainable living movement” became prominent, many Nashvillians made like semi-farmers, raising chickens in their backyards. As late as 1975, parts of Green Hills included various properties with horses and goats. To imagine the tony suburb as such now would seem odd, if not outlandish. 

But a return to hyperlocal farming has turned out to be far more difficult than leaving it behind was for practitioners a few generations ago. 

The issue came to a head in 2009, as confusion about city law stirred: One part of the Metro code appeared to prohibit chickens in the county’s Urban Services District, while another section seemingly said it only became a violation if the chickens were a nuisance. Metro code does not allow chickens within the Urban Services District, except in the cases of properties that are zoned for agriculture. 

Metro Councilmen Carl Burch and Jason Holleman attempted to clarify the code with competing legislation. Burch wanted to ban hen ownership altogether, noting during a council meeting at the time, “I firmly believe chickens have no place in the Urban Services District.” Holleman’s bill would’ve allowed backyard chickens in the USD. 

Neither bill made it to third reading, leaving the code intact — and, some argue, vague and contradictory. Joey Hargis of Metro Codes said the USD has a handful of properties zoned for agricultural operations. In addition, chickens can be kept on properties that are five acres or larger and are within the county’s outlying General Services District. 

 

The primary reason for a backyard chicken coop is to produce fresh eggs. It’s part of a local-eating movement that’s been strong across the country for years now, and in many cities backyard chickens are perfectly legal. 

“We want the freedom to grow our own food,” said UCAN’s Mollie Henry, who lives near 12South. “It’s not roosters, it’s hens, and they certainly make less noise than a lot of barking dogs. This is not a pet issue.” 

Alyce Dobyns, who co-founded UCAN with Mary Pat Boatfield, looks at hens like many people do their dogs and cats. 

“You may not want chickens and that’s great, but your neighbor might want them, and you can get fresh eggs,” Dobyns said. 

To date, Dobyns has worked with fellow Inglewood resident and District 8 Councilwoman Karen Bennett in shaping the language of a would-be bill. Bennett said she is considering sponsoring legislation but almost certainly would wait until after the Aug. 4 election.

“This is about being responsible with the produce we eat every day,” Bennett said. “It bothers me that we have otherwise law-abiding citizens that have to violate the code to have a viable food source as well as pets.” 

Dobyns said she is “willing to wait [until after the election], but other people want to get it passed.” She said Bennett has been “informative and upfront” with UCAN from the beginning of the process. 

But not everybody is ready to embrace fowls in the city.

Metro Councilman Jim Gotto, who voted with Burch in 2009, called UCAN’s goal “lofty and noble,” while adding, “the unintended consequences could be disastrous.” 

Gotto said potential legislation broadening the current code “sounds good on paper,” but he likened it to an upcoming bill that would allow greater flexibility for citizens with home businesses, citing enforcement concerns and how the city’s core should function. 

Judy Ladebauche, director of the Metro Health Department’s Division of Animal Care and Control, said the department remains neutral on the issue. 

“We understand the concerns [of both those for and against the effort] and have no intention of supporting or opposing,” Ladebauche said, adding the department recently met with Boatfield, the executive director of the Nashville Humane Association, about the issue. 

Hargis said the illegal keeping of chickens is not a problem the codes department often confronts. But during the past few years, the department has increasingly fielded inquiries from citizens who want to keep chickens, he said. An uptick in citizen awareness of a natural diet and concerns about trucking foods likely has spurred that rise, he added. 

The codes department is prepared to effectively monitor hens if a bill to allow them in the USD is passed, Hargis said, but he noted a potential concern. 

“If the council wants to permit chickens in urban areas of the city, then a restriction on the number of chickens on each property would be helpful,” he said.

Cities nationwide have moved to allow — and even encourage — backyard chicken ownership as part of the urban farming movement, which supports organic eggs and recognizes the dramatic decrease in the country’s small farms and concomitant dominance of large corporate farming operations. Chicago, Cleveland, New York and Seattle are among the many cities to have passed laws since 2008 that allow chickens in private residential yards within urban areas. In the state, Knoxville and Memphis have done likewise. Nearby, Louisville has a 15Thousand Farmers program that has gained strong support. 

Jim Myers, executive director of Nashville-based Community Food Advocates, said his group supports the UCAN effort. 

“We need to do a better job of developing urban agriculture within the city,” Myers said, “and keeping hens is a great way to do it.”  

 

 

68 Comments on this post:

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/6/11 at 7:07

This is a seriously bad idea overall. Sounds good but would not work - there would always be the idiots that would try to have 50 chickens on a quarter acre lot and no one has time to patrol that. That many chickens on a small lot creates health issues and is a nuisance.

By: tomba1 on 6/6/11 at 7:46

Dear major dean and all council members -

On behalf of all the foxes and coyotes in the area, I urge you to support this legislation. Times are tough for them too and we should help them in any way we can, This is a good, no cost way to do just that. And, this will provide a future revenue stream for metro in the form of chicken and egg taxes. And we will finally have an answer to the long-standing question of, which tax comes first, chicken or egg?

By: dogmrb on 6/6/11 at 8:16

As a large dog, I speak from experience -- chickens are great pets and not near as noisy and messy as I am.

By: nash615 on 6/6/11 at 8:30

Whenever an opponent to a bill says "well, we don't have the resources to enforce this" they are also pointing out that we currently don't have the resources to enforce the current legal state of affairs.

"We don't want to enforce a more clear law on chickens so don't vote for it." is not an argument. By that logic they can't enforce the current muddy law which says maybe you can and maybe you can't have chickens.

This is an argument-sounding statement, but it's not an argument. In fact it's basically saying nothing other than "we can't enforce the laws we have on the books, so why bother changing them?"

Which is just another way of saying "the laws on the books are basically meaningless."

I recommend that if you want to have chickens you go ahead and get chickens. Either laws forbidding them won't be enforced (probably), or the "argument" against clarifying the rules is worthless, in which case you can now push to legalize your reasonable desire to keep chickens in the USD.

As a friend recently said on this topic, "civil disobedience is greatly underrated."

By: haveasay on 6/6/11 at 8:48

If you want to live on a farm, buy one. If you want to run a business go to a commercial district. I chose to live in a residential neighborhood and I don't want a beauty shop, barbershop, chicken farm, recording studio etc next door to me. It is correct that people are breaking the laws all over our city, these are not "law-abiding" citizens they are breaking the law. So what now? Help Jason Holleman change the laws to suit him and his friends. How stupid to change a law because people are breaking it, find them and close down their coop. Next we can wring the chicken's neck and have fried chicken, get us a pig to have organic ham, build us a smoke house, sell hams and get us a goat to keep the grass mowed, get us a horse to ride to save gas, build a silo and raise a little corn, grow a little weed and smoke it while we pet the cat and tie up the cow. Buy the Holleman kids a pony and ride in circles. Welcome to the neighborhood!!

By: localboy on 6/6/11 at 10:05

What poseurs.

By: frodo on 6/6/11 at 10:16

While I am sympathetic to people wanting better poultry products than they get in the store, I can't help seeing this as one more small step in our nation's long and unwavering march in recent years to second-world status.

By: girliegirl on 6/6/11 at 10:51

Don't laugh....they have chicken coops that looks like Tinker Bell's Castle, and some that look like regular dollhouses, and they come with screens and all sorts of luxury items, so much so that our daughter wanted one to use as a playhouse, especially since they're climate controlled for the hens. They look better than most people's tool sheds, I might add.

By: bfra on 6/6/11 at 12:23

girl and you think that is what the majority will run out and buy! HO HO NO. The majority will put up sheds, leantos, huts, if anything for shelter but then guess you think that would be cute, also. Ever been around a chicken yard? The smell is far from pleasant!

By: american1974 on 6/6/11 at 2:57

There is a void that needs filled between people who want quality food and a supply of/from non industrial farmers. Something the South fought for a long time, but was eventually was Americanized and converted. This issue that seems so small to some covers a much larger scope of a movement.
As far as the comment about shifting to a “second-world status”. That depends on who’s doing the looking. ..You don’t look more intelligent being dependent on the system. All of this so called “Progress” is a never ending war against anything that is normal in the real world. Progress has left us with big business industrializing food, it’s nothing short of illegal to farm in a pre industrial revolution manner.
This little petty fight over hens encompasses something much larger than the average person realizes and is informed or educated about. Before the industrial revolution 62% of American families farmed. Now with all of this so called PROGRESS everyone pushes, less than 2% of families farm and the average age of the farm is 55.
If anyone reading this would like to educate themselves on being self sufficient and the battle that was fought and lost to the industrial revolution, I suggest you read “I’ll take my stand”. Published in 1930 by an intellectual social group of Southerners that met at Vanderbilt. Also known as Southern Agrarians or the Vanderbilt Fugitives.

By: cpreader on 6/6/11 at 9:57

The reality is that most of the e. coli outbreaks come from large facilities that house 1000s of birds under one roof. Keeping a small number of hens in a clean grassy yard poses much less threat of spreading disease. Hens that have access to green grass produce eggs that actually help your cholesterol go down! Yes, they should be regulated and violators fined just like for people who drive over the speed limit. But let's not deny a source of cheap, wholesome food because of baseless fears and prejudice. We had hens for over a year, not one ever got sick and many of our neighbors never even knew we had them.

By: LoveItNashville on 6/6/11 at 10:04

Well said, American1974.

BFRA: I had a small amount of hens for a while, and the truth is, they didn't smell. The smell of my neighbor's dog poop on my shoe was far worse. Yes, industrial chicken houses are abhorrent and so nasty that no one should be eating anything coming out of there - that's the whole point of raising a few yourself - it's much safer and cleaner. Remember the multi-millions of salmonella-tained eggs recalled last year? No thanks - you eat those nasty eggs; I'd prefer to grow my own.

FRODO: It's legal on the books to have chickens in Belle Meade, and they don't seem to be heading toward second-world status over there.

BLANKETNAZI2: Why do you think that legalizing chickens will make people run out and buy 50 of them? Not everyone chooses to be a cat or dog owner, and not everyone will choose to own hens. Yes, that many chickens on a small lot would not work, just as puppy mills and crazy cat ladies don't work - but that doesn't mean we prevent responsible pet owners from owning cats and dogs. You're wrong. Owning hens is a seriously GOOD idea, overall. And perhaps you should think about dropping "nazi" from your username.

By: gardenmama on 6/6/11 at 10:41

I am a huge proponent of backyard hens. They produce safer and healthier eggs than factory farmed eggs. I don't like to be alarmist, but recent widespread outbreaks of salmonella and e. coli have been a wake-up call that our industrial food system has real risks. Being able to produce some of my own vegetables, fruit and eggs is an important food security issue to me. Plus, fresh eggs taste so much better than factory eggs.

As an avid organic gardener, hens are tremendous helpers in the garden. They eat ticks and all sorts of other insects. Their droppings are high in nitrogen, so adding them to a compost pile heats it up and makes great compost. I love my dog and two cats dearly, but the bottom line is that their waste is a problem in my garden because it contains harmful bacteria. So, I have to clean it up and send it to the landfill. On the other hand, chicken waste is a free gift of organic fertilizer.

I understand the concerns that some people have. I don't want 50 chickens next door to me. I don't want a dirty, stinky chicken coop next door either. I also don't want a dog next door that barks 24/7. That person is not a responsible neighbor. That's why a sensible urban chicken law should limit the number of chickens to 4-6 hens per household and no roosters. The law should also mandate that hen owners be responsible in cleaning their coops. If not, they get fined and/or lose the right to keep chickens. It's pretty simple.

Mayor Dean has said that he wants Nashville to be the greenest city in the South. When it comes to this particular issue, I'm afraid Knoxville is way ahead of us. Chickens aren't for everyone. So many cities across the US have adopted laws to allow urban hens. If you research what has happened in other cities, only a small percentage of homeowners choose to have chickens and the vast majority are quite responsible about keeping them, just like the vast majority of homeowners are responsible about keeping dogs and cats. The fear that a few irresponsible people might have a dirty chicken coop should not prevent this city from establishing a reasonable set of rules for homeowners to keep a small number of urban hens. Anyone that doesn't follow the rules, should be fined and/or lose the right to keep them.

By: bfra on 6/7/11 at 1:24

Anyone that doesn't follow the rules, should be fined and/or lose the right to keep them.
================================================

After a few weeks, how many chicken yards have you seen, that still has grass? As to following rules & fines, who is going to enforce the rules? Codes doesn't enforce rules now, so if we add more rules, they will start doing their job!

By: subcinco on 6/7/11 at 6:42

haveasay you crack me up. I know you're being sarcastic but, it sounds like a good life to me!
Seriously, a few hens in the back yard would be a good thing.
I thought we wanted less Gov'ment right? They can't tell me what to do, this is America!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 7:06

Loveit, that would work in certain neighborhoods but you have to consider Nashville as a whole. Woodbine has been fighting livestock on quarter acre lots for years. It's a bad codes issue over there. Sure, you have a lot of responsible folks but I can tell you as a fact that there are many who already try to have 50 chickens on a quarter acre lot when it's not legal to have one. We have many farmer's markets in Nashville now so you have access to locally grown produce and dairy. Why put other neighborhoods at risk and make their uphill battles worse?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 7:08

gardenmama, i guarantee you it's more than a few folks and bird feces is very unhealthy. it would create health issues for the other neighbors and it creates a nuisance.

By: frodo on 6/7/11 at 8:08

Loveit, the Belle Meadeans have big privacy fences. How many chickens have you seen in Belle Meade, Anyway? Not near as many as you'll see crammed in Antioch. I hope you'll have some early-morning roosters to enjoy near you.

By: Funditto on 6/7/11 at 9:59

Somebody over the tracks in nearby Sylvan park has chickens years ago. We could hear them loud and clear. They are a noisy bunch.

By: GammaMoses on 6/7/11 at 11:57

Has anyone ever been upwind of a chicken coop? Not as bad as a pig farm, but definitely stinky.

By: LoveItNashville on 6/7/11 at 12:01

Most urban hen legislation around the country limits the number of hens you can have to around 5 or 6, and normally prohibits roosters, which I would imagine would be also reflected in Nashville's legislation. If noise is your main concern, we should outlow dogs - they are far noisier and at all hours of the day and night.

BFRA - we had chickens for a year and our grass looked great. We have about a quarter-acre in the back yard, and our chickens lived in a hen house on wheels that we moved around daily.

FRODO - you make my point. Just legalizing chickens doesn't mean everyone is going to get them. They're legal in Belle Meade but hardly anyone has them there, so what is your fear? Legalizing them in Nashville I suspect will hardly move the needle of people who choose to own them. But it will create an opportunity for people to be able to feed themselves with healthy food, and if you haven't noticed, our country is suffering from a nutrition crisis.

It doesn't make sense to me why we are singling out chickens as an animal to prohibit, when as a culture we say it's OK to have dogs, which are far noisier, create more toxic poop - which often lands in other people's yards (not the case with hens), can bite people and often do, and also can ruin grass and tear up your yard if you don't take precautions. If it's OK to have these creatures living amongst us, why not animals that contribute to a secure food supply and don't attack people?

By: cpreader on 6/7/11 at 12:15

To clarify again, the issue here is allowing a SMALL number of HENS (not roosters which are the ones that make the noise) in the metro area. We had 3 hens that provided our family with about 18 eggs a week. We kept them in a coop on wheels that never allowed the poop to buildup and get smelly. They ate many of our table scraps so we actually decreased the amount of trash that we were putting in Nashville landfills. We obviously allow animals in the metro area so as LoveItNashville said, why not encourage animals that actually provide food, decrease trash, and fertilize the yard? Let's set some sensible rules that protect the freedom of people to have access to clean food!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 12:17

LoveIt, talk to Bill Penn over at Codes. He'll tell you how much of an uphill battle that already is. He's already trying to get rid of chicken coops at many residences that have a lot chickens - including roosters - on quarter acre lots. There are many health issues involved with this problem so it's not just that it is a nuisance. And dog pop is not toxic like chicken feces and no, it's not a problem. Many dog walkers pick up after their dogs. Raising chickens belongs in the country, not in an urban setting. Why not buy eggs from your neighborhood farmer's market?

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 12:18

Also, infection from bird feces can also be airborne, so if you live next door you are at risk.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 12:26

Chicken manure can pose various risks to human health. The manure contains salmonella bacteria and also contains campylobacteria. Both of these bacteria can make a person sick. Some other health hazards present in chicken manure include intestinal parasites and residues left over from veterinary drugs. Toxic metals like lead, arsenic and cadmium are also present in the manure. An antibiotic-resistant bacteria is also found in chicken manure. The bacteria are called staphylococci and enterococci. When these bacteria affect the food or water supply of humans, it can infect the digestive systems of people. Therefore, you have to consider the health risks posed to people who are living next door to individuals who will decide (or already have decided) to have more than the number of chickens allowed and on small urban lots, which only exacerbates the problem.

By: cpreader on 6/7/11 at 12:35

I suspect that Blanketnazi (change your offensive name) is referring to industrial chicken waste where they're pumping the birds with all manner of hormones, medicines, and dyes. Our birds ate mostly untreated grass and our family interacted with them constantly and none of us got sick. Stuff the fear back in the bottle and embrace the facts. The greater health risk here is to rely on an industrial food system that is making our great nation into a diabetic, cancer ridden, heart diseased wasteland.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 12:40

cpreader, i've lived next to one of those houses with 50 chickens. i tell you, it's no joy. i'm not speaking from knee jerk reaction, i'm speaking from experience. talk to Bill Penn.

btw...apparently you do not watch Seinfeld or you would catch the joke in my name. guess that one went over your head.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 12:41

btw, that problem house also ended up with the surrounding neighbors having huge rat issues because of the grain stored for the chickens. it was a huge health risk and Codes had a heck of a time trying to get them to be compliant.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 12:45

ok, let's use the reasoning of the racing folks. you knew when you moved into the city that you couldn't have chickens. if you want chickens, move to the country.

By: motherhen on 6/7/11 at 12:48

The UCAN group is advocating that any upcoming legislation would include the following:

-Hens only (no roosters), eliminating noise concerns

-Limited number of hens (4-6) that would not be permitted to run at large

-Predator-proof coops

-Proper food storage (in metal containers) to prevent attracting rodents.

The idea is to legalize laying hens so that people who want access to safer food can responsibly keep hens, while preventing nuisance conditions. Of over 60,000 animal control calls in the last few years, only about 100 were chicken-related. A clear law would set the standards for proper urban hen conditions and would be more enforceable than what is currently on the books, which is somewhat ambiguous.

I would consider a half-billion eggs recalled in 2010 due to a massive salmonella outbreak on factory farms (sickening around 2,000 people) to be far more a public health risk than a well-maintained backyard mini-flock where the small amount of manure is composted and returned to the garden, eliminating the need for synthetic fertilizers. If your concern is health risks (which are far greater when birds are concentrated by the thousands in a tiny space), see this informative article about the health risks of backyard hens (and other pets): http://sarasotacluck.blogspot.com/2010/12/cluck-addresses-public-health-concerns.html

I would also encourage anyone with concerns to take a moment to be open-minded about the possibility of legal hens. It may sound bizarre at first, but once you look into the issue, you will likely find that hens can be kept safely and without becoming a nuisance. People should have the right to produce their own safe food.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 12:50

motherhen, i'll be happy to give you some addresses to go look at and see what type of problem that will spread. there are going to be a lot of folks who will not adhear to the law and codes will be overwhelmed with legitimate complains. think of Nashville as a whole, not just your own neighborhood.

By: motherhen on 6/7/11 at 1:06

Blanketnazi2, I can only imagine what it would be like to live next door to 50 chickens on a tiny lot, and I certainly sympathize and can understand why you are against this based on personal experience. If it is any consolation, there is some outreach happening in some of the neighborhoods I think you are referring to in hopes of bringing everyone to the same understanding of what is acceptable in an urban setting. Proponents of urban hens just want the opportunity to legally keep their hens responsibly. It is likely that many people who want hens already have them, and legalizing them won't mean that every person in Nashville suddenly rushes out to get chickens. It should help give firm guidelines for enforcement to eliminate the problems you are talking about, though. According to this article, codes is ready to enforce a new law, and given the ambiguity of the past, they would probably welcome some clarification.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 1:22

motherhen, thank you for your civil and thoughtful response. i try to eat organic when possible and don't eat processed food if i can help it and i do understand the potential health benefits if people choose to have hens. after the nightmare of living next to someone who had 50 chickens on a quarter acre lot and knowing how hard it was for codes to resolve the issue - trust me, you wouldn't like the idea either. just because it works for one neighborhood doesn't mean it's a good idea for Nashville as a whole. and considering budget cuts i don't feel assured that codes would be able to keep up - they already cannot keep up with the livestock-in-urban-neighborhoods issue as it is.

By: bfra on 6/7/11 at 1:30

motherhen - Codes does not enforce laws now, look around. Why do you think they will start? People do not obey the leach law and a dog only has to get one chicken, till he is after more. If people want farm animals or fowls, move to a farm!

By: LoveItNashville on 6/7/11 at 1:41

Bfra - Codes was quite direct with a letter asking us to remove our hens, so in my experience Codes does enforce. We were threatened with a $50/day penalty if we kept them beyond a specified date, so I wonder how your neighbor is allowed to continue keeping them? For the most part, people in my neighborhood also obey the leash law.

I also wonder how your neighbors treat their other animals?. Perhaps the issue in your situation is to get better enforcement overall.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 1:43

LoveIt, you probably live in a neighborhood with few codes issues and not as high of crime as other areas of Nashville. That makes a difference as to how quickly and effectively laws are enforced. That's my main concern - what's right and will work in one area won't work for Nashville as a whole. You might be happy but who knows what sort of hell will be created for other residents of Nashville.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 1:46

In certain areas of town where codes issues run amuck priorities get set, such as which is a higher priority - dealing with an abandoned drug house or dealing with 50 chickens. The focus (appropriately) is on the drug house. The 50 chickens falls to the bottom of the list and doesn't get addressed in a timely or effective manner due to other issues in the neighborhood. Therein is the problem. If your chickens were the only codes issue in your neighborhood, it's no wonder it was handled so promptly.

By: motherhen on 6/7/11 at 1:48

Blanketnazi2, it makes perfect sense that you would be against chickens since you had such a bad experience. Part of the difficulty codes has had in forcing people to get rid of chickens is the ambiguity of the law as it is written (as Mr. Williams explained in his article). With a clear law allowing a limited number of hens that would not be permitted to run at large (they would have to be contained in a fence or run, which should take care of the dogs-as-predators issue), there would at least be a clear law for codes to enforce. I know of several people who have received codes letters and inspections for their chickens, so the issue is certainly on their radar.

As far as the "if you want chickens, move to a farm," line of thought, all I can say is that we are living in a time when we need to start being creative and resourceful about redeveloping a local food system. It doesn't get any more local than your own garden in your own backyard. We can not afford to keep shipping food thousands of miles using expensive fossil fuels. Backyard chickens were an everyday part of life here in Nashville in our parents' and grandparents' day, and many people have a desire to return to the self-sufficiency of those days. It can be done in a responsible way that will positively affect the community, and it is being done all over the country.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 1:51

the law is clear when it comes to urban services district and the neighborhood i'm referring to is USD. so it's not an issue of the law being ambiguous in this case. as for the $50/day fine.....it can go uncollected and nothing happens if someone is of low income. think of all the court fines that also go uncollected for the same reason. a fine is not a deterrant to someone who has no plans of paying it anyway and knows nothing will come of it.

perhaps the answer is having more neighborhood farmer's markets which is happening.

By: LoveItNashville on 6/7/11 at 2:07

Blanket - I get your point, and it sounds like your Codes person has an overload of work. Let me ask you this: would you still be opposed to hens if your neighbor only had 5 or 6, had a clean yard, brought you eggs from time to time, moved them so the grass kept growing, and otherwise cared for them responsibly and neatly?

Your above description of their waste is truly indicative only of industrial farm chickens - unless you are feeding them mercury and antibiotics, there is no way that stuff can get into their manure. Garbage in, garbage out. And you're exactly right - it's disgusting. And it's why I want to grow my own eggs, so that I know what I am eating and what I am feeding my kids. If you visit an organic gardening store, you'll see that you can actually buy chicken manure as a fertilizer (but not dog manure) because in a natural setting, they eat mostly grass and bugs, neither of which causes them to have bacterial infections.

Enjoying the dialogue.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 2:13

LoveIt, of course that would be fine but that doesn't mean just because you're happy you create a situation that is hellish for other neighborhoods. and yes, 50 chickens on a quarter acre lot IS a health problem and the accumulated grain gathers rodents which is ALSO a health problem. just because it creates a good situation for you doesn't make it right for all of Nashville. go to a farmer's market to get local produce and eggs. it's that simple - and you won't be putting other Nashvillians at risk.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 2:22

btw, i'm enjoying the dialogue as well.

By: bfra on 6/7/11 at 2:43

Bugs don't carry infections? That is news!

By: michinson on 6/7/11 at 2:59

Good gravy, the bad apple always spoils the whole bunch. I agree completely that a neighbor with 50 chickens in an urban back yard is a nuisance, yes, and possibly a health hazard. But I have a neighbor with chickens. The only noise I've heard are soft, and to me rather soothing, clucking sounds. They don't smell. There are no rats running around in the feed. I've visited "The Girls" and they're pleasant, rather social little critters who like to come up and say hello. They also personally deliver the best eggs I've ever had every single day.

Dogs and cats are domesticated animals. The majority of the population have them in our homes and yards, and have for generations. Why not a few chickens? If I were worried about droppings, I'd be more more fearful of the thousands of birds and dozens of squirrels who frequent my yard daily, not to mention my 80-pound dog and 14-pound cat. All are poo generators, but I've never had a smelly yard, vermin, or a animal/bird poo-related illness.

There are always going to be irresponsible folks who make their animals' and neighbors' lives miserable, but why throw the baby out with the bath water? Let's have some reasonable rules and regulations and let those who want to keep chickens keep them. When a real problem arises, the neighbors will, and should, complain. A responsible, conscientious animal caretaker will ensure their feathered friends are good neighbors. I think chickens are charming, useful creatures, and I'm all for the backyard chicken!

By: motherhen on 6/7/11 at 3:01

brfa, you make an excellent point. Bugs do carry infections, especially bugs like mosquitoes and ticks. Hens that are fenced in the backyard do an excellent job of controlling ticks, which helps prevent the spread of diseases like Lyme disease.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 3:24

michinson, you don't seem to understand that when you live in a neighborhood that already has an abundance of codes issues, chickens will fall low on the priority list and will be just one more obstacle in those neighborhood's uphill battles. and it's not just a few bad apples, it's a prevalent problem. wanting to change laws so that it's only better for your neighborhood but sacrefices others is, well, selfish. you can get your locally grown chicken and eggs at the farmer's markets.

By: bfra on 6/7/11 at 3:24

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Some might find the above interesting!

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 3:30

ask Anna Page what she thinks of chickens in her district.

By: cpreader on 6/7/11 at 4:21

Blanketnazi, it's unfair for you to limit others access to clean food and then call them selfish. Maybe you're the one who needs to move.

By: Blanketnazi2 on 6/7/11 at 4:28

i already have moved. i know my former neighbors are still fighting to have a better neighborhood. and btw, you have access to clean food - go to the farmer's market.