by Patricia Foreman

The local foods movement is not only gaining ground, it is here to stay; and that includes family flocks of chickens. Chickens are the mascots of local foods because of the many talents and skill sets they innately bring to small scale food production. These skill sets include being pesticiders (eating mosquitoes, ticks and fleas), herbiciders (by eating and clearing unwanted vegetation), and organic fertilizer generators (that can help create and enhance garden soil). The trend for backyard flocks is so strong, that in the past 2 years, over 500 towns and cities have revised their laws to allow urban folks to keep their own chickens.

With the reemergence of backyard chickens across the country, there have been tremendous amounts of misconceptions, false beliefs and downright prejudice surrounding the keeping of micro-flocks of chickens. As the co-host of the Chicken Whisperer Backyard Poultry and Sustainable Lifestyles Talk Show, we have heard it all.

There are seven main concerns that routinely surface when the topic of city chicks is discussed. These are:

  1. Disease
  2. Noise
  3. Waste, Odor and Flies
  4. Predators and Rodents
  5. Property values
  6. Appearances
  7. What will neighbors think?

Let’s look at the facts behind each of these concerns.

Myth 1. Chickens Carry Diseases Communicable to Humans.

Fact: the truth is that small flocks have literally no risk of avian flu transmission to humans. The 2006 Grain Report states: “When it comes to bird flu, diverse small-scale poultry is the solution, not the problem.”

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states on their website: “There is no need at present to remove a (family) flock of chickens because of concerns regarding avian flu.”

Avian flu has been in the press as a concern to commercial poultry production where birds are raised in monster-size flocks confined in over-crowded environments and fed the cheapest food possible. This causes high stress and compromised immune systems in the birds. Any sign of disease, including a sneeze, could result in a huge number of birds getting sick, and this puts at risk a large amount of profit. As many experts have stated publicly, the solution to avian flu is in small-scale poultry.

[We will explore Myth 2, Chickens are too Noisy in the next article of this series.]

You can learn more about employing family flocks as both civic and garden workers in City Chicks: Keeping Micro-flocks of Chickens as Garden Helpers, Compost Creators, Biomass Recyclers and Local Food Suppliers.

May the flock be with you!

…and to quoth the Chicken: “evermore”.

Patricia Foreman