by Andy Schneider (the Chicken Whisperer)
Time and time again I hear people complaining about the problems they think backyard chickens will bring if allowed into the backyards of their city. Some of the more common complaints that I hear are noise, smell, rodents, disease, and property values.
I don’t believe that I have ever been to a meeting about keeping backyard chickens where the noise issue has not been brought up at least once. I often hear people complaining about the potential early morning crow of a nearby rooster. This is a very valid point, and I too would be complaining if a rooster were waking me up every morning at 4:30AM, especially if I did not have to wake up until 7:00AM or later. There are many advantages of keeping backyard chickens, but most urban chicken keepers want to keep backyard chickens for the benefits of having an endless supply of farm fresh eggs. Solution? You do not need a rooster to enjoy farm fresh eggs every morning. In fact, some people claim that hens will lay better if there is no rooster around to disturb their routine. In contrast to roosters, hens are very quiet and soundlessly sleep through the night. Roosters primarily have two jobs, which they do very well. They protect and fertilize. You really only need a rooster if you want baby chicks running around in the backyard. I personally still hate to see cities ban roosters altogether because there are ways to keep roosters in an urban area quietly and responsibly. When towns do allow roosters they still have far more complaints about barking dogs, loud music, and loud mufflers, than they do roosters crowing. Maybe the town should ban dogs too if they are so concerned about unwanted noise!
Smell is another complaint that is often brought up when discussing chickens. Yes, chickens can smell, just like dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, fish, and even people if not taken care of properly. We are not talking about a 500-foot long commercial chicken house with 50,000 chickens next door. We are talking about six to twelve laying hens in a backyard setting. There are many ways to reduce the smell of your chicken coop so it will never create a problem. One example would be putting 100 people in your dining room for an extended amount of time and see the problems you will have vs. putting six people in your dining room. Most towns that allow chickens limit the number to six to twelve.
If you don’t think that you have mice and rats outside your home right now, then you are living in a fantasy world. Many claim that keeping chickens will attract mice and rats and think they don’t exist until the chickens arrive. Chickens themselves don’t attract mice and rats. Mice and rats are attracted to a food and water source. A backyard chicken feeder is no different than a typical wild bird feeder when it comes to being a food source for mice and rats. A chicken waterer is no different than an outside potted plant when it comes to being a water source for mice and rats. Maybe the town should ban wild bird feeders and potted plants if they are so concerned about mice and rats!
About three years ago many were asking questions about the risks of avian influenza and keeping backyard chickens. I always refer them to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) website where it addresses this issue. On the Q&A page the following is posted. Question: We have a small flock of chickens. Is it safe to keep them? Answer: Yes, In the United States there is no need at present to remove a flock of chickens because of concerns regarding avian influenza. The U.S. Department of Agriculture monitors potential infection of poultry and poultry products by avian influenza viruses and other infectious disease agents. Have you researched lately how many diseases cats carry? Maybe the town should ban cats too if they are so concerned about disease!
Andy Schneider, better known as the Chicken Whisperer, is the host of the Backyard Poultry with the Chicken Whisperer radio show, contributor for Mother Earth News Magazine, Grit Magazine, Farmers Almanac, and national spokesperson for the USDA-APHIS Bio-Security for Birds Program.