Archive for the ‘urban chickens’ Category

A Note of Thanks

For the past 16 months, we have asked hen supporters to write to the Mayor and City Council regarding your support of urban hens in Billings. Now we’re going to ask something slightly different.

Will you consider writing a brief note of appreciation for this vote? The Council/Mayor have had to wade through months of rhetoric, fears, facts, accusations, documentation, phone calls, emails, citizen testimony and more… from both sides of the coop. They came out of that on the side of urban hens. Would you write them to just say a simple “Thank you!” for the work they have done? and

Additionally, we were remiss in not expressing our gratitude to the city staff who have indicated that, while they will proceed with the issue whichever way the Council votes, they were supportive of our efforts. The Planning and Animal Control departments in particular have been gracious, fair, and encouraging during this work. On behalf of the Billings Backyard Hen Initiative, THANK YOU! It has been a struggle for all of us to keep this issue above-board and respectful of persons and job functions during this long process; mis-quotes and misunderstandings will happen at times. The only ones who got ugly about this were the anonymous commenters to the Billings Gazette online articles, and it’s easy to be inflammatory when you’re hiding behind anonymity. This issue did NOT denigrate into mud-slinging and bitterness among those of us with our names and faces out in public (citizens, city staff, City Council), and we very much appreciate that fact!  Sure makes this citizen wonder how often the problem lies with the public and our lack of respect and consideration when making a request, rather than the “government workers and politicians” that it is so easy for that public to bash. Just food for thought… (“>

Way to go, City Council & Mayor!!

This sixteen-month process is drawing to a successful conclusion! Tonight the City Council voted 6-4 in favor of zoning changes to specifically allow urban hens in Billings. They followed up that win by voting 9-1 in support of a new urban hen ordinance allowing up to 6 hens kept in clean, predator-proof housing, an annual permit, and enforced by nuisance ordinances, among other details. The new ordinance is based on that of Missoula, MT and Fort Collins, CO.

There will be a second public reading of this new ordinance, scheduled in September, then 30 days before the ordinance becomes effective.

More information will post to this website as it becomes available, including the cost and process for obtaining the permit.

Speaking on behalf of this citizen’s Initiative group, Way to go, Billings! We are really proud of our City Council and Mayor for working through this issue with us, especially to a successful conclusion. You guys listened to the information and searched through rhetoric and fears to come to a good conclusion. Thumbs up and kudos from the hen-loving community!

To those hen lovers, we ask that you respect the efforts that Dave Klein with Animal Control has gone to in putting the new ordinance together and researching potential issues. While all along there has been a legal contention on whether or not urban hens were or were not allowed in Billings, the fact that they will definitely be allowed now means that we have an extra duty to implement these new, productive pets into our yards in a responsible, careful manner. Keep in mind your neighbors, keep your coops clean and your hens quiet, and be willing to share some of those great eggs!


BIG Vote Tonight 8/27/12! 

Tonight is the first public reading of the new ordinance. We know we have said that before, however, we’re pretty sure this time that it hasn’t derailed. The City Council meeting is at 6:30PM on 8/27/12 at Council chambers, 210 N 27th Street downtown.

We need you there to stand in support of this issue! If the initiative fails, we will potentially have up to a year before we can request it again – and during that year we are planning to:

  • continue and expand on our email-the-council campaign,
  • picket the meetings with our “live” chicken Sunny (it’s a costume, don’t panic),
  • continue to show up to Council meetings to express our support of urban hens (even if they won’t be voted on),
  • continue the Letters to the Editor campaign,
  • and possibly pursue a legal approach in the event chicken owners are targeted by the City.

Despite the way the vote falls tonight, the nonprofit 501(c)3 Magic City Hens group (  will continue to offer regular urban henkeeping classes and maintain a visual presence in parades, city events, Gardeners and Farmers Markets, etc. That group will also continue Chicken Relocation and Compost Relocation projects, as well as the 2013 Hen Expo. Plans are underway for a City-Wide Coop Tour as well.

Please make it out tonight in support if at all possible; if you cannot attend, please email the Council at and Mayor at! (“>

Monday 8/27/12 – First Reading New Ordinance!

This process has been fraught with delays and frustrations, but… we are now set to have the official first reading of the new urban hen ordinance on Monday night, 8/27/12 at 6:30PM at City Council chambers (210 N 27th Street, Billings).

The council can vote this forward or vote it down. We UTTERLY and ABSOLUTELY need you there!! If you care about urban hens in Billings, please make your voice heard! If you absolutely cannot make the meeting, please at the very least send an email to the council at and let them know you are in support of the urban hen ordinance!

We’ve been working on this issue since April of 11 – sixteen months now – and it’s come down to the wire. The council seems divided – the vote is not yet sure. Can you – will you – help??

Check out our Facebook page: Billings Backyard Hen Initiative, for up-to-the-minute updates. (“>

It’s Close, But Not Here Yet!!

Here’s an updated schedule!! The city staff is going to present TWO ordinances to the Council… the ordinance that the Council requested (based on Missoula/Fort Collins good ordinances), and the complicated, untried and excessively controlling ordinance that city staff had put together (requiring 20′ easement from property lines, pre-permit inspections despite the fact that Animal Control says they don’t have time to do these, additional 4′ property fencing, etc). Public comment is required to help the Council make the best choice for Billings. (This is where YOU come in, and your emails count too!)

6/5 (Tuesday) 4:30PM Zoning Commission – City Council chambers
6/12 (Tuesday) 6PM Animal Control Board – North Park Center
6/25 (Monday) 6:30PM City Council public comment #1
7/9 (Monday) 6:30PM City Council public comment #2

8/9 Ordinance passed becomes effective for one year, upon which time it will be reviewed and made permanent, hopefully!

We’re reaching the desired results, but we need to keep moving forward: no resting just yet! Please try to make at least one of the upcoming meetings! The two most critical meetings will be the City Council “public comment” times (latter two meetings listed above). Let’s see this thing through!! (“>

Council Directs Staff to Proceed with Hen Ordinance!

Monday May 14 2012, the City Council voted 7-2 to direct staff to proceed with an urban hen ordinance based on the ordinance already proven and currently in use in both Missoula, Montana and Fort Collins, Colorado. This is GREAT NEWS!! A one-year “sunset” clause will be written into the ordinance so we have the equivalent of a year’s pilot program to make sure that the issue works well in Billings and any tweaking that needs to occur may be easily addressed.

A public comment period will occur twice before the ordinance is adopted (July?). Regular upcoming sessions (which begin at 6:30PM) include May 28 and June 11, it is possible that the ordinance will be read at one or both of those sessions. As the agenda becomes available, we will let you know. It is important that people are ready to come in support of the issue, as we are sure that the opposition will do so :). In respect for the time of the City Council, we will ask very few people to speak, but be willing to stand in support. Respect & consideration should always work both ways.

If you can’t make one of the Monday night meetings, please email the council at and Mayor at and thank them for their willingness to help Billings make this great stride towards being a sustainable, local-foods city!

Requested Urban Chicken Ordinance

(from Missoula, MT and Ft Collins, CO)


The prohibition to keeping chickens in this section does not apply to the keeping of up to 6 female chickens while the animals are kept in such a manner that the following standards are complied with:

    1. The chickens must be kept on a single-family parcel(s), and chickens may be kept on a parcel(s) under one ownership with more than one dwelling if all residents and the owner consent in writing to allowing the chickens on the property. When chickens are kept on a multi-dwelling parcel(s) the owner of the chickens shall keep a copy of the signed approval document for inspection upon request by animal control personnel.
    2. The owner must obtain an annual permit from the City Treasurer.  The permit shall be $15.
    3. The chickens shall be provided with a covered, predator-proof chicken house that is thoroughly ventilated, of sufficient size to admit free movement of the chickens, designed to be easily accessed, cleaned and maintained by the owners and be at least 2 square feet per chicken in size.
    4. No chicken house shall be located closer than 20 feet to any residential structure occupied by someone other than the chicken owner, custodian, or keeper.
    5. The chickens shall be shut into the chicken house at night, from sunset to sunrise.
    6. During daylight hours the adult chickens shall have access to the chicken house and, weather permitting, shall have access to an outdoor enclosure on the subject property, adequately fenced to contain the chickens and to prevent access to the chickens by dogs and other predators.
    7. Stored feed must be kept in a rodent- and predator-proof container
    8. It is unlawful for the owner, custodian, or keeper of any chicken to allow the animal(s) to be a nuisance to any neighbors, including but not limited to: noxious odors from the animals or their enclosure; and noise of a loud and persistent and habitual nature.  Animal Control will determine whether or not a nuisance exists on a case-by-case basis.
    9. Enforcement Upon receiving a complaint of a possible violation Animal Control will investigate, determine if a violation exists and when appropriate leave a notice of violation and order to take corrective action with the owner, custodian, or keeper and provide them with written notice of the violations that require correction.  Animal Control will revisit the owner’s address 10 days or more after the notice of violation is issued.  If the owner, custodian, or keeper has failed to comply with the ordinance, Animal Control may issue a citation to the owner, custodian or keeper for failure to comply with any applicable requirement of this section.

An Open Letter to the Billings Association of Realtors

April 27, 2012
Billings Association of Realtors:
As a long standing member of the Billings Association of Realtors, I 
vehemently disagree with your letter recently submitted to the Billings 
City Council urging them to ban the backyard chicken. Throughout our 
country people are seeking various ways to have live a healthier, green 
lifestyle and to be more self sufficient. The idea of the backyard 
chicken is not a radical one and is actually a widely accepted practice 
in 93 out of 100 of the largest cities in the country. 
Communities throughout Montana, including but not limited to, Missoula, 
Bozeman, Helena, Butte, Kalispell and Whitefish have also adopted this 
healthy lifestyle choice. Great Falls is currently working on getting 
an ordinance passed.
I have spoken several times before the city council in support of this 
issue. It brings to the forefront an important opportunity to better 
feed our families and also return an individual right to the people as 
our countries founders intended. My professional opinion regarding the 
effect that having backyard chickens would have on property values is 
that it would not have a negative impact and the chicken coop could in 
fact become a negotiating tool in a home purchase or sale. The hundreds 
of people who are in support of this issue are dedicating their time and 
energy to the success of this program. The chicken requires constant 
care and nurturing and as it is estimated that less than 2% of the 
population will even be interested in pursuing the work required to 
properly keep backyard chickens, your odor and drainage concerns become 
a non-issue. When our city is filled with backyard barking dogs, your 
concern is with a few chickens???
I have checked with the Magic City Hens Association here in Billings and 
learned that they have never been contacted by the Billings Association 
of Realtors. What information did the association use to arrive at 
their decision? Please set aside personal opinions and do what is best 
for our community and retract your letter of asking for the Billings 
City Council to deny our residents the freedom to become better.
Bill R. Iverson
Town & Country Properties
1311 11th Street West
Billings, MT 59102
cc: Magic City Hens Association
Billings City Council
Mayor Hanel
Montana Association of Realtors
National Association of Realtors

Montanans: Dependence or Independence?

Montana IS the last best place. “The trailhead to the West”… we are actually the bulk of the remaining Old West in America. Montanans are known to be self-regulating, trailblazing, get-your-laws-off-me sort of people. They prefer to do it themselves, as befits the progeny of the pioneers and cattlemen who first settled this area.

Montana likewise draws those sort of people from other states, much to native Montanans chagrin I’m sure, but those of us who weren’t blessed enough to be born here got here as quickly as we could. We are proud of the Montana heritage and appreciate our adoptive state.

This very independent-minded pioneer spirit is why I find it so confusing that Billings, Montana has a few residents (and a few elected officials) who are so adamant against giving us the right to raise a few hens in our own backyards. Seriously? They find it somehow better and more admirable to trundle up to the grocery or big box store to fork over greenbacks for eggs, tomatoes, iceberg lettuce. Ignoring entirely the sheer and scientifically provable inferiority of those store-bought versions of what we can actually produce ourselves, the fact that they are willing to be told what they can eat by the grocery store chain (probably home-based in New Jersey) is just absolutely confusing.

The whole thing just strikes me as, well, laziness. Sure, it’s easier to go buy something ready-made, even if it is of known lesser quality. But does “easier” make it right? Is it right to be willing to sit back and accept the horrific and inhumane living conditions of battery-cage hens, to pay good money for chemical-laden produce shipped from thousands of miles away, or to prevent ourselves and our neighbors from having the ability to produce some of our own foods in an urban setting, simply because it is easier?

There is a whole Chicken Little “the sky is falling! The sky is falling!” mentality with these folks. From worst-possible-case-scenarios to just blatant disdain to the point of hatred, they are willing to use any excuse to try to browbeat others into submission. “Line up and take your handout like the rest of us, quit trying to do something better with your life!” This is not our heritage, Montana.

I guarantee that when our forefathers started packing the wagons and saddling the horses to head out to Montana, they heard a lot of their neighbors squawking about how much easier it is to stay in “civilization” where there are grocery stores and butcher shops. And as we can see from looking at any current census map, there are many more folks in our United States who decided against trying their own hand at providing for themselves and their families, and chose to stay with the crowd where they could be safe. But for the million-or-so there are of us in this great state, being told where to live and what to eat and what we can do with our own property wasn’t acceptable when it was the 1800’s, and it isn’t acceptable now. You don’t want to get a pair of gloves on and grow your own vegetables or raise a few hens? Fine. You’ll keep Walmart in business. But for those of us who do… keep your laws off our hens!

City Staff Proposed Hen Ordinance

We’re having difficulties converting this file to a readable format we can post here, so with our apologies… link on the URL below to read the urban hen ordinance being proposed by city staff for a one-year trial period. 

Note that you will have to open the pdf file attached to the document. It’s a 6-page document prefaced by a memo.

While this is certainly much more complex than the BBHI-proposed ordinance that works so well in many other cities, we find that many of the concessions are reasonable. We recognize that compromise works both ways. One issue that concerns us though is in regards to pre-permit inspections by Animal Control Officers.

City staff and council members have expressed repeatedly their concern that an urban hen ordinance not cause extra work to staff, from Animal Control Officers to Code Enforcement Officers. Why then would they volunteer ACO’s to take valuable time to go inspect coops and hen pens before approving permits?? This sends their estimated work load from basically none (according to the other cities polled in regards to the calls on urban hens that their staff must respond to) to, possibly, an hour per permit? It is illogical. The likelihood of there becoming a problem (with noise, odor, etc) will only be AFTER the people already have their hens, and if a permit is required in advance, they would be inspecting an empty and brand-new chicken facility. Sillier than shutting the barn door after the horse has escaped, this is the equivalent of shutting the barn door before the horse even gets there. ??!

Logic aside (which pains me to even write), the issue of “fairness” comes to mind. We pose the question: Are dog owners, cat owners, rabbit owners, ferret owners, fish owners, cockatiel owners, pet snake owners, hamster owners, or lizard owners required to have pre-permit inspections? Even for a kennel permit for owners of more than 4+ dogs or cats? We have provided information ad nauseum regarding the comparatively minor volume of (compostable) manure provided by chickens, verses the (vastly more odiferous and highly NON-compostable) manure provided by dogs and cats, so it can’t be a manure issue. My pardons for digressing into logic again…

So Billings! What do you think? Care to show up at City Council chambers tonight, Monday 4/16/12 at 5:30PM, to share your thoughts during agenda item #2 – Urban Chickens – Public Comment?? Even if you don’t wish to speak, if you are a Billings resident and are in support of the issue, you could attend and simply stand up in support of the issue with our speaker when requested.

If you can’t make the meeting, please email the city council at and let them know your viewpoint! (“> 


City Council Work Session 4/16/12

Tonight’s the night! Monday 4/16/12 at 5:30PM at City Council Chambers – be there or be a square without urban hens! :(

OK if you really CAN’T be there, please send an email to the council at and let them know you are a city resident and in support of urban hens in Billings.

If you DO come and don’t wish to speak or sign in, we’ll ask everyone in support to please stand, at one point. We would love that to include you!!!

Please share this with anyone in city limits you think may be interested in supporting this issue! Power to the peeps! (“>

Another Letter to the Council

March 23, 2012

To the city council,

It has come to my attention that Billings has a problem with citizens keeping chickens in their backyards. I believe that keeping chickens is a right that should granted to Billings citizens. In the USA over 150 major cities have allowed chickens without any problems.  The same is true in 8 of the major Montana cities. So what is the problem?

One complaint against chickens is that they create a big smelly mess. On the contrary, people are not going to have 20 chickens in their backyard. At a maximum, they will have six chickens. Chicken excrement is not nearly as foul as dog and cat excrement. As a matter of fact, chicken poop can be quite beneficial to citizens’ gardens. Chicken poop is compostable, unlike dog and cat poop.

Additionally, another complaint might be that egg sales in our city might decrease if citizens keep backyard hens. I think the citizens in Billings should be allowed to keep hens privately and provide a food source for their own families if they choose to do so in a responsible manner.

Another reason that some might not want chickens in town is due to misinformation regarding how much noise they make.  Chickens are not noisy at all, especially since the proposed ordinance allows for no roosters and just 6 hens.  Hens are very quiet almost all the time. When they do squawk, the sound is not nearly as loud as a dog barking. Should we ban dogs from the city, too?

Some people say it’s too dangerous to keep chickens because their heat lamp might catch on fire and burn their shed to the ground. Actually, chickens don’t need a heat lamp. They are birds. They have gotten along just fine for centuries without heat lamps. They are covered with feathers. When it’s cold, they poof up their feathers and keep themselves warm.

When the government doesn’t heed the wishes of its people and makes decisions based on the personal opinions of a few councilmen, everyone loses. The majority of people in Billings want to have chickens or want their neighbors to be allowed keep chickens as long they are kept according to the rules set out by the proposed hen ordinance. I would encourage you to consider placing the proposed hen ordinance before the city council so that our elected officials can vote the will of the people which is the way our democracy is supposed to work.


Evan Ulrichs, age 14

Mayor Scoffs At Citizen Requests

Mark your calendars! We need to PACK THE PLACE in urban hen supporters: March 26, 2012 at 6:30PM, the City Council will be given the opportunity to vote on an initiative from the Zoning Commission to recommend that the words “and fowl” be added to ordinance subsection 27-607, currently prohibiting livestock within city limits. The Mayor has remarked in emails to the Council that “the 26th can’t get here fast enough.” WE CRY FOWL!!

While we can’t find a single city in the USA, Canada, or the UK who allows urban hens and wishes they didn’t (and it’s a vast, vast majority who DO allow them), this issue is bigger than the right of law-abiding citizens to have a micro-flock of egg producers in an appropriate coop in their own backyard. This issue addresses our right for fair and diligent representation by our elected officials. It addresses our right to be treated as a responsible pet owner instead of disregarded as a potential animal abuser. It addresses our right to use our own property in a reasonable and conscientious fashion of our own choosing. It addresses our rights of urban food production.

Whether you wish to speak to the Council or not, we need your presence on March 26 in City Council chambers downtown. Don’t sit back and let us lose our rights… it will cost you nothing but an hour or two of your time to do the RIGHT thing for Billings residents!! Please come… and please share this information with anyone you know who likewise supports these rights! (“>


Major US Cities (and nearby states) Allowing Urban Hens

Major US Cities Allowing Urban Hens as of March, 2012  
City State        
Birmingham Alabama Honolulu Hawaii San Antonio Texas
Huntsville Alabama Boise Idaho Waco Texas
Mobile Alabama Chicago Illinois Wichita Falls Texas
Montgomery Alabama Fort Wayne Indiana Salt Lake City Utah
Anchorage Alaska Indianapolis Indiana West Valley City Utah
Chandler Arizona Wichita Kansas Chesapeake Virginia
Gilbert Arizona Lexington Kentucky Virginia Beach Virginia
Glendale Arizona Louisville Kentucky Seattle Washington
Mesa Arizona Baton Rouge Louisiana Spokane Washington
Peoria Arizona New Orleans Louisiana Tacoma Washington
Phoenix Arizona Baltimore Maryland Vancouver Washington
Scottsdale Arizona Boston Massachusetts Madison Wisconsin
Tempe Arizona Minneapolis Minnesota Milwaukee Wisconsin
Tucson Arizona Saint Paul Minnesota    
Little Rock Arkansas Kansas City Missouri Missoula Montana
Anaheim California Saint Louis Missouri Bozeman Montana
Bakersfield California Lincoln Nebraska Butte Montana
Chula Vista California Omaha Nebraska Helena Montana
Elk Grove California Henderson Nevada Kalispell Montana
Fremont California Las Vegas Nevada Havre Montana
Fresno California North Las Vegas Nevada Anaconda Montana
Fullerton California Reno Nevada Whitefish Montana
Garden Grove California Jersey City New Jersey Miles City Montana
Huntington Beach California Albuquerque New Mexico Buffalo Wyoming
Irvine California Buffalo New York Cody Wyoming
Lancaster California New York New York Rawlins Wyoming
Long Beach California Rochester New York Laramie Wyoming
Los Angeles California Syracuse New York Cheyenne Wyoming
Modesto California Charlotte North Carolina Casper Wyoming
Oakland California Durham North Carolina Idaho Falls Idaho
Orange California Greensboro North Carolina Lewiston Idaho
Pasadena California Raleigh North Carolina Meridian Idaho
Rancho Cucamonga California Winston-Salem North Carolina Hayden Idaho
Riverside California Cincinnati Ohio Preston Idaho
Sacramento California Cleveland Ohio Mountain Home Idaho
San Diego California Columbus Ohio Couer d’Alene Idaho
San Francisco California Toledo Ohio McCall Idaho
San Jose California Oklahoma City Oklahoma Garden City Idaho
Santa Ana California Tulsa Oklahoma Rapid City South Dakota
Santa Clarita California Eugene Oregon Deadwood South Dakota
Santa Rosa California Portland Oregon Aberdeen South Dakota
Stockton California Salem Oregon Vermillion South Dakota
Sunnyvale California Philadelphia Pennsylvania Fargo North Dakota
Colorado Springs Colorado Pittsburgh Pennsylvania New Rockford North Dakota
Denver Colorado Sioux Falls South Dakota Colorado Springs Colorado
Fort Collins Colorado Memphis Tennessee Lousville Colorado
Bridgeport Connecticut Nashville Tennessee Loveland Colorado
New Haven Connecticut Amarillo Texas Boulder Colorado
Washington DC Arlington Texas Longmont Colorado
Cape Coral Florida Austin Texas Newcastle Colorado
Fort Lauderdale Florida Brownsville Texas Grand Junction Colorado
Hialeah Florida Corpus Christi Texas Wheatridge Colorado
Jacksonville Florida Dallas Texas Goldendale Washington
Miami Florida El Paso Texas Shoreline Washington
Orlando Florida Fort Worth Texas Marysville Washington
Pembroke Pines Florida Garland Texas Lakewood Washington
Saint Petersburg Florida Grand Prairie Texas Burlington Washington
Tallahassee Florida Houston Texas Puyallup Washington
Tampa Florida Irving Texas Everett Washington
Atlanta Georgia Killeen Texas Lynnwood Washington
Augusta Georgia Laredo Texas Longview Washington
Columbus Georgia Lubbock Texas Bellingham Washington
Savannah Georgia McAllen Texas Sammamish Washington

Citizen Petition page – blank

Billings Backyard Hen Initiative

 We, the undersigned citizens of Billings, Montana, respectfully request our city leaders to act now to change city ordinances to allow responsible hen-keeping in the backyards of residential zoning districts under certain restrictions. Keeping hens would enable residents to provide nutritious, delicious, safe, and environmentally friendly eggs for their families, while at the same time teaching our children where food comes from, and what it is worth. 

 Dr. David Waltner-Toews, veterinarian, epidemiologist, and professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario, has written that he knows of “no evidence linking human illness with keeping small urban flocks.”  Further, he believes that “if we do not make room for these urban entrepreneurs, we risk losing a set of very important food-rearing skills that will enable us to better navigate the economic, climatic and environmental instability our society will face in the coming decades.

 Nine of the ten largest cities in Montana already allow or are currently working on allowing urban chicken-keeping (Billings makes ten), and at least 94 of the 100 largest American cities are pro-hen, as well as many, many Canadian and European cities. Please let us join them.

 Name:  ______________________________________________________________________

Address: __________________________________________________zip________________

Phone:  ______________________________________________________________________


Date:___________________________ Signature:_________________________________


Name:  ______________________________________________________________________

Address: __________________________________________________zip________________

Phone:  ______________________________________________________________________


Date:___________________________ Signature:___________________________________


Name:  ______________________________________________________________________

Address: __________________________________________________zip________________

Phone:  ______________________________________________________________________


Date:___________________________ Signature:____________________________________


Name:  ______________________________________________________________________

Address: __________________________________________________zip________________

Phone:  ______________________________________________________________________


Date:___________________________ Signature:___________________________________


Name:  ______________________________________________________________________

Address: __________________________________________________zip________________

Phone:  ______________________________________________________________________


Date:___________________________ Signature:____________________________________

Urban Hens 101 Class!

Magic City Hens is announcing their first 2012 class: Urban Hens 101! This 90 minute class will be held Saturday, January 28, 2012 from 10:30AM – noon at Good Earth Market downtown.

See for more information about this fun and educational event, or email RSVP requested; class is filling up fast! Magic City Hens advises that later Spring classes are expected to max out quickly as Billings area residents prepare for Spring Chick events.

Percentage of Major US Cities Allowing Urban Hens

Attached below, please see a database as of 12/21/2011 indicating the 100 largest (by population) cities in the USA and whether they do or do not allow urban hens. For a quick summary, at least 93% of major US cities (according to population ranking) now allow urban hens! This is up from a reported 65% in a November, 2008 article in Newsweek magazine.

Rank City State Allow?
New York New York YES
2 Los Angeles California YES
3 Chicago Illinois YES
4 Houston Texas YES
5 Philadelphia Pennsylvania YES
6 Phoenix Arizona YES
7 San Antonio Texas YES
8 San Diego California YES
9 Dallas Texas YES
10 San Jose California YES
11 Jacksonville[h] Florida YES
12 Indianapolis[g] Indiana YES
13 San Francisco California YES
14 Austin Texas YES
15 Columbus Ohio YES
16 Fort Worth Texas YES
17 Charlotte North Carolina YES
18 Detroit Michigan NO
19 El Paso Texas YES
20 Memphis Tennessee YES
21 Baltimore Maryland YES
22 Boston Massachusetts YES
23 Seattle Washington YES
24 Washington District of Columbia Not yet
25 Nashville [g] Tennessee YES
26 Denver Colorado YES
27 Louisville [g] Kentucky YES
28 Milwaukee Wisconsin YES
29 Portland Oregon YES
30 Las Vegas Nevada YES
31 Oklahoma City Oklahoma YES
32 Albuquerque New Mexico YES
33 Tucson Arizona YES
34 Fresno California YES
35 Sacramento California YES
36 Long Beach California YES
37 Kansas City Missouri YES
38 Mesa Arizona YES
39 Virginia Beach [e] Virginia YES
40 Atlanta Georgia YES
41 Colorado Springs Colorado YES
42 Omaha Nebraska YES
43 Raleigh North Carolina YES
44 Miami Florida YES
45 Cleveland Ohio YES
46 Tulsa Oklahoma YES
47 Oakland California YES
48 Minneapolis Minnesota YES
49 Wichita Kansas YES
50 Arlington Texas YES
51 Bakersfield California YES
52 New Orleans Louisiana YES
53 Honolulu [b] Hawaii YES
54 Anaheim California YES
55 Tampa Florida YES
56 Aurora Colorado NO
57 Santa Ana California YES
58 Saint Louis [d] Missouri YES
59 Pittsburgh Pennsylvania YES
60 Corpus Christi Texas YES
61 Riverside California YES
62 Cincinnati Ohio YES
63 Lexington Kentucky YES
64 Anchorage Alaska YES
65 Stockton California YES
66 Toledo Ohio YES
67 Saint Paul Minnesota YES
68 Newark New Jersey ?
69 Greensboro North Carolina YES
70 Buffalo New York YES
71 Plano Texas NO
72 Lincoln Nebraska YES
73 Henderson Nevada YES
74 Fort Wayne Indiana YES
75 Jersey City New Jersey YES
76 Saint Petersburg Florida YES
77 Chula Vista California YES
78 Norfolk [e] Virginia NO
79 Orlando Florida YES
80 Chandler Arizona YES
81 Laredo Texas YES
82 Madison Wisconsin YES
83 Winston-Salem North Carolina YES
84 Lubbock Texas YES
85 Baton Rouge Louisiana YES
86 Durham North Carolina YES
87 Garland Texas YES
88 Glendale Arizona YES
89 Reno Nevada YES
90 Hialeah Florida YES
91 Chesapeake [e] Virginia YES
92 Scottsdale Arizona YES
93 North Las Vegas Nevada YES
94 Irving Texas YES
95 Fremont California YES
96 Irvine California YES
97 Birmingham Alabama YES
98 Rochester New York YES
99 San Bernardino California ?
100 Spokane Washington YES

We’ll Be Brawk… (“>

For those who haven’t heard, November 21st 2011 the Billings City Council and Mayor arbitrarily and capriciously decided to ignore the hundreds of citizens who have signed petitions, written letters, shown up in support and asked them to consider urban hens for Billings. Amazing. Based on the idea that POSSIBLY there might be some BAD HEN OWNERS out there who might not keep their coops clean or their little urban food sources on feet cooped up during the night (and therefore bringing in hordes of wildlife including bears, badgers, and mice), they decided to throw us all out the window. After all, there is a remote possibility that Animal Control might get called once a month to take care of some chicken-related issue. The fact that urban hens have quietly existed in Billings for decades (without Animal Control’s constant involvement) just doesn’t count I guess.

Gosh. There are quite a few people who drive drunk too, or speed, or run red lights. We’d better take EVERYONE’S cars away… Billings residents cannot be trusted to act like adults!

Dog owners, beware. The Council has lumped hen owners and potential hen owners in with all of you who let your pooch bark all day and fail to clean up their (ahem) non-compostable waste products from the backyard. Hug your canines folks, the Council might just decide to take them away too. You’ve obviously proven you cannot be responsible.

OK all our sarcasm and wee bit of bitterness aside, this is just bad politics. Anybody see the Billings Gazette poll that asked readers how many chickens should be allowed in urban backyards in city limits, from 0 up to 12? Last I saw before it closed and they took it down, seems like it was well under 40% nay and well over 60% 3-12 hens per residence. I’ve not seen any petitions out there against chickens, but we have several hundred names of Billings residents who are FOR them.

Does this need to be a voter issue? The Billings Backyard Hen Initiative has, from our inception, tried to be logical, reasonable, factual, and respectful in our efforts to discuss this issue with the city. We’ve taken the high road in every way we knew how. We spent thousands of hours researching myths and concerns, emailing and calling other cities to find out their issues, talking with residents, meeting with neighborhood groups, and supporting this issue. We’ve taken it upon ourselves as average citizens to implement (Magic City Hens) chicken relocation and compost relocation programs as well as offer classes in urban hen-keeping. Obviously our City Council and Mayor do not appreciate or even consider any of that in the slightest, as evidenced by the wise cracks made behind our backs after we left the Council meeting on Monday night.  

“Table the issue” all you like, Billings City Council. We are not a dozen people, we are several hundred people, and we will become several thousand people in support of this issue. We vote, we care about our city, we are responsible and trustworthy citizens. Your denigration of our potential caregiving capabilities is ridiculous and not acceptable. Sorry guys, but we will be back. And back, and back, and back, and voting, and working, until we have a City Council and Mayor who care enough about Billings to put their vote where their mouth is in regards to local, sustainable, healthy eating and the rights of our citizens to provide those with quiet, clean, and non-obtrusive birds (gallus domesticus – the common chicken) eating kitchen and garden scraps and laying daily eggs. It’s 2011, almost 2012. Can we join the rest of the nation in this aspect of healthy lifestyles??


Call for Coop Gleanings – Magic City Hens

Magic City Hens news: (

A new “Bokashi” composting bin is being set up this Fall, located at the community garden grounds of St Andrew Presbyterian Church in west Billings… we are sending out a call for “coop gleanings” aka poultry poo, chicken droppings, etc. With our urban hen coops, these droppings are often mixed with bedding (pine shavings, straw, shredded newspaper, what-have-you) and are as such valuable additions to compost piles… so they are nicely referred to, therefore, as “coop gleanings”. The gleanings from a maximum of 6 hens are very minimal (less than a 40# dog on a given day, for example) so we need quite a few hen-keepers help in generating enough volume to set the bin up properly.

Composted poultry fertilizer is one of the most valuable compost products available: ScienceDaily (June 23, 2010) — “Chicken litter is much more valuable as a fertilizer than previously thought, according to an Agricultural Research Service (ARS) study showing its newfound advantages over conventional fertilizers.” Chicken manure provides more nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium than equine or bovine varieties.

The compost will be used to feed urban community gardens in the Billings area – so this is truly a win-win for everyone!

Bokashi composting is a relative newcomer on the compost scene, and should result in outstanding compost within a matter of weeks or months instead of the years it can take traditional compost methods. This bin we are setting up will be the first attempt locally to integrate new methods with old-style fertilizer. Bokashi composting works despite winter weather, which has a true advantage over standard methods.

 All Seasons Bokashi Compost Starter

We can provide a few 5-gallon buckets in case anyone is interested in donating their urban hen’s leavings. Please contact TJ at for more information on participating. (“>

Upcoming Events!

Billings Backyard Hen Initiative meeting – preparation for City Council meeting of 9/26: Thursday 9/22/11 6:30PM, Parmly-Billings Library 3rd floor meeting room. We really need you there!

Mad City Chickens movie screening – single showing of a wonderful urban chicken documentary! Saturday evening 9/24/11 6:30PM, Harvest Church Lockwood at 1413 Rosebud Lane (just off the highway). $5 per ticket, or use your $1 off coupon from the Expo program! The movie is fun, educational, and interesting…

City Council meeting – 9/26/11 at 6:30PM, City Council chambers. BBHI (this means you!) will be asking the City Council to approve our request to clarify city code to allow urban hens in Billings city limits. We absolutely need you to show up! Petition signatures are wonderful, but when people care enough about an issue to take time from their busy personal schedules to come and support an issue, it helps the Council know what direction should be taken… it makes vastly more impact.



Magic City Hen Expo THIS SATURDAY! 9/17/11

Henrietta says "Hope to see you there!"

Hope you can join us at the Magic City Hen Expo 2011, this Saturday from 9AM to 3PM at the community garden grounds of St Andrew Presbyterian Church located at 180 24th Street W, across the street from West High’s track.

Day’s Schedule:

10AM and also 1PM “Hen Keeping 101″ class with Mike Eland of Goldeneye Acres Game Farm

10:30AM “Cold Weather Gardening” class with Wayne Burleson (

11Am to 1PM Silent Auction for Painted Hens

11:30AM Chicken Dance Competition – Prizes awarded!

NOON “Bokashi Composting” class with Sally Keele of Stone Soup Gardens

12:30PM “Fruit Tree Selection & Care for Billings” by the Field of Dreams Tree Farm

1:30PM Cornhole Tournament begins – more prizes awarded!

All during the day participants can enjoy “The Chicken Revolution” movie, tons of kid’s activities including projects and aprons from Lowe’s, games, face painting, “Find Henrietta’s Eggs” hunt, Angry Birds Live!, and lots lots more. See the Parade of Hen Homes and buy a coop or order one customized to fit your yard. Pet live hens at the HenZone Petting Zoo! Enjoy delicious food from Red Rooster Cafe or Taste of Asia. Balloons! Prizes! Information! Fun!! And best of all… Free! (“>

Special Showing! Mad City Chickens movie!!

"Coming to a backyard near you"

Mad City Chickens is a sometimes serious, sometimes whimsical look at the people who keep urban chickens in their backyards. From chicken experts and authors to a rescued landfill hen or an inexperienced family that decides to take the poultry plunge—and even a mad professor and giant hen taking to the streets—it’s a humorous and heartfelt trip through the world of backyard chickendom.

Special screening! This is huge!! Mad City Chickens is NOT available on Netflix!
Saturday, September 24, 2011
Harvest Church Lockwood @ 1413 Rosebud Lane, Billings (Lockwood exit)
$5/person admission
FMI: TJ at 371-5161 or

What’s Next? Pot Bellied Pigs?

Can I just answer this in one word? No.

To continue, if need be: pets are pets, and none of us should really sit in judgement of someone else’s desire to own a hen, a pot-bellied pig, a dog, a cat, a snake, a turtle, hamsters or gerbils, white rats, or a hippopotamus. HOWEVER… the Billings Backyard HEN Initiative is all about hens. We’re not the Billings Backyard Anything-Goes-For-Pets Initiative, and this group of people (grown to over 150 by late July, 2011) has absolutely no further agenda than to advance the cause of urban hens. Gallus Gallus Domesticus. The quiet, gentle, egg-laying backyard chicken.

Rest easy, Fair and Magic City… we are not the front men/women for some nefarious scheme to overrun our town with winged, hooved (cloven or otherwise), or pawed creatures. We’re just individuals and families who really strongly believe that backyard hens benefit all of us. We want to keep them in clean, enclosed and predator-proof little coops in our backyards, feed them scraps, eat their eggs, and enjoy being a little more self-sufficient. Fret not!! (“>


Do Nothing??

“All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

It might be a stretch to assume that preventing Billings citizens from providing their own food in the form of a few backyard egg-producing hens is actually “evil”… but then again, it’s something to think about. Since when is responsible pet ownership (with notable financial and health benefits) something to even seriously consider legislating AGAINST?

You cannot let the fear and worry over something that MIGHT happen, problems that have NOT proven to be legitimate in the hundreds of other cities across our nation who have blazed this trail before us, prevent a city’s citizens from being self-sufficient in any part.

Edmund Burke also wrote, “No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”

My point? If you have been hesitant to email the city council ( and Mayor ( because of fears of reprisal, please think about it… there are hundreds of people in the Billings area who either already are enjoying the benefits of backyard hens and who live in fear of discovery, or who would like to have them without that fear. If we do nothing and say nothing, the council and Mayor will not know the true feelings and desires of their VOTING CONSTITUENCY.

We have to stand up to be counted. We *don’t* have to admit to having backyard chickens already to do so… and in fact, there is serious question over whether or not the urban hen issue is really as “against code” as the city might be interpreting it at this time. There are over 125 people in the Billings Backyard Hen Initiative, either by active participation, signed petition, or indicated support. This number is growing weekly. There is both strength and safety in numbers!

Hensforth!! (“>

“Teach a Man to Fish…”

Food and fuel prices are creeping skyward and people are scrambling to provide healthy food for their families. The more people learn about how critical good nutrition is to our health, the greater the demand for food that meets that criteria.

Enter the urban backyard hen. The ordinance the Billings Backyard Hen Initiative is requesting states that hens (no more than 6, and NO roosters) must be kept in clean, enclosed, and predator-proof housing. That means no stink (clean), no runaway/flyaway hens (enclosed), and no pile of feathers in the backyard (predator-proof). And in return for responsible housing and care, hen owners receive:

A pet with benefits. A gentle, quiet, independent bird who will eat bugs and table scraps along with a small amount of chicken feed, and who will lay an average of 1 to 2 dozen eggs per month in return. And the eggs? Far healthier than factory-farmed, as evidenced in various studies:

  •  ¼ less saturated fat
  • 1/3 less cholesterol
  • 2/3 more vitamin A
  • twice the omega-3 fatty acids
  • three times the vitamin E
  • four to six times more vitamin D
  • seven times more beta-carotene.

And that is compared to a brand-new factory-farmed egg… USDA allows egg producers to sell eggs up to 30 days after having been laid… as with any fresh food, nutritional values will drop as the food ages. (Try the water test – place an egg fresh from the grocery store in water. A fresh egg will lay flat. As it ages, it will tip upwards and finally float. Don’t eat the floaters… that egg is probably 45 days old and has filled with gases as it decomposes.)

Billings has wonderful programs in place to help feed the hungry, which is something that any compassionate human being has to realize is hugely important. And as we are feeding people, and teaching people, shouldn’t we also teach them how to provide for themselves, in conjunction with other programs? Teach people how to garden, teach them to cook and how to preserve foods, teach them how to take care of a few backyard hens. That is what “local and sustainable” can and should mean. “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime” – that adage applies to a lot more than a day on the river.

Red Lodge Poultry Workshop

Raising chickens is gaining popularity across the country. Jim Adkins, Sustainable Poultry Specialist with the International Center for Poultry, will present a workshop on July 20 on raising heritage poultry for sustainable farming, marketing, exhibition and preservation. Jim is a passionate, effective communicator who loves poultry and loves to teach people about the available opportunities with poultry. This workshop will empower you to start raising poultry or improve your current poultry operation.
The International Center for Poultry is an organization dedicated to educating people about standard bred poultry and sustainable farming. Standard bred is sort of like ‘purebred’ and ‘registered,’ but for poultry. For more information on Jim Adkins and the International Center for Poultry, visit
“Raising chickens is a complete cycle,” said Nicole Barlow. “The chickens will eat from the ground, they will produce eggs and meat. During this process, they will fertilize the grass area for the next generation of chickens.” Raising poultry is healthier for the environment compared to buying eggs or meat that has been shipped across the country, states Barlow. “I really enjoy hearing the sounds of my chickens, collecting the eggs, as well as teaching my kids about caring for the animals.”
This workshop takes place on July 20 from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm at the Barlow residence, 60 Two Mile Bridge Rd (1 mile North of Red Lodge). The cost is $25 and includes lunch on site.  Registration fee must be received by July 15.
For more information, email Nicole Barlow at or call (406) 446-3645. Mail registration to Nicole Barlow, P.O. Box 2269, Red Lodge 59068, by July 15.
This is a great opportunity to learn skills needed to shape your food future.

2011 Magic City Hen Expo

Plans are in full steam for the 1st Annual Magic City Hen Expo, slated for Saturday July 23rd from 10AM – 2PM at the community garden grounds of St Andrew Presbyterian Church, 180 24th Street in Billings.

A new feature for this event is the Painted Hens for Habitats. We are asking local artists to decorate, adorn and otherwise embellish cement chickens which will be auctioned off during the Expo, with proceeds to benefit our Habitats for Hens program… BBHI members will build hencoops and donate to local-area needy families with chick set-ups. Similar to the Trail of Painted Ponies, and the Madison County Montana “Fish Out of Water” painted trout in medium, the painted hens will represent the local, sustainable-food movement in Billings.

Quick Definition

What is an Urban Chicken?

Urban chickens are actually, in the words of one local veterinarian, “pets with benefits”. Urban chickens are a limited number of hens (we are asking for up to 6, and no roosters) kept in clean, enclosed and predator-proof coops in urban backyards.

The small size and gentle nature of backyard hens, particularly in the breeds known to be quiet and calm, make them great for families with even small children, and also ideal as a backyard food producer. Not only do they eat every type of insect imaginable, they also do a smash-up job eating leftovers, kitchen and garden scraps. In return for this omnivorous diet, they return two things: nutritionally-superior eggs and a desirable, highly bio-degradable and eco-friendly fertilizer product once composted.

Got Meetings?

The Billings Backyard Hen Initiative would love to meet with your group, no matter how small or large, to discuss urban hens in Billings. Questions, answers, concerns, photos, the works… we would love to visit with you about this.

Quilting club? Checkers group? Neighborhood meeting? Bible Study? Landlord association? Leadership group? Community gardeners? If you are Billings citizens, we want to talk with you!

Give us an email at!

Task Force Meeting Tues 6/14/11

Hello, backyard hen supporters!

The next meeting of our Billings Backyard Hen Initiative is set for Tuesday evening, June 14 at 7PM. We’re meeting at Off the Leaf on Grand.

We have some good news to share! And, there are lots of ways you can participate, from emailing your city councilmembers to helping coordinate on several other projects in our campaign. If you can’t make the meeting but would like to help, please let me know!

Otherwise… see you there!


City Zoning Commission Hearing Fell on Deaf Ears

Misinformation was King at the City Zoning Commission meeting tonight. After eleven citizens stood up and explained why we wanted urban hens, followed by two in opposition, the Zoning commission voted against pursuing text amendments to allow our request.


We did not get a chance to speak in rebuttal or answer questions about the concerns; it was apparent that childhood memories of living on a farm with 500 chickens brought their own weight to the meeting, as Zoning members expressed their thoughts. Thus, while some of us could relate to the farm chicken memories, we were unable to express the true facts in the urban hen issue.


It is remarkable to us that much larger cities (as well as much smaller municipalities) than Billings itself have implemented this sustainable-lifestyle function into their ordinances and structure without experiencing any of the problems, difficulties, or concerns that the two gentlemen speaking, and the Zoning members themselves, brought up. New York City,Dallas,Los Angeles,San Francisco,Chicago,Albuquerque,Seattle,Portland,Austin,Phoenix,Tampa,Atlanta,Pittsburgh,El Paso,Fort Worth,Nashville, and many, many more allow backyard hens – close to 70% of large cities nationwide. But this isn’t even just inAmerica– many Canadian cities as well as those inEuropeare likewise implementing responsible ordinances regarding this issue. If this was the problem that the Zoning commission worried about, would it have ever continued in these cities?


The big concerns mentioned were smell, the possibility of rabid skunks, swarming mice, and property values dropping. We, as a group, find it perplexing that the Zoning Commission would assume that we would willingly and knowingly risk our own pleasant and landscaped backyards, the health of ourselves and of our families, and our property values for the sake of making a point. Really??


It takes between 12-15 backyard hens to equal, in one day, the amount of fecal matter produced by one small, 40# dog. Dog ownership is not regulated beyond the requiring of a license, and there is as little likelihood that every neighborhood dog inBillingsis licensed annually as there is that those dogs are thoroughly cleaned up after. As a point of logic, if a person was going to eat something that was produced in a portion of their backyard, would they or would they not be as certain as humanly possible that the food product was clean and safe?

There have been ZERO documented cases of property values diminishing in any way by the allowance of responsible backyard hen-keeping, in any city in the United States. In fact, it is becoming such a widespread sustainability feature that some realtors and home sellers are offering free chicken coops with a lot purchase! See more about this at – Done the way we are suggesting to the city (as other cities have implemented), urban hens actually increase property values in a town, rather than decrease it.

Regarding drawing skunks – Yes, skunks like chickens. And dogs and cats left outside at night. In fact, human household garbage, pet food left out in a bowl, bird feeders, gardens, fish ponds can all attract predators, including skunks. However, a predator-proof coop is also a requirement of the code being requested. And remember, chickens will eat mice, baby rats, and snakes… some of the other things that draw predators.

Obviously there is more work to be done to address these concerns. We are asking the City of Billingsto give us a chance to show them what we’re talking about… it’s not your Granddad’s chicken farm. It’s up to 6 hens in a clean and tidy coop with a small footprint, with dramatic benefits such as up to 9 pounds a month of residual-food products (leftovers turning in the fridge, pizza crust, veggie peels and scraps, garden waste) that would normally be thrown away into our Billings landfill turning, instead, to a compostable product that is of vast benefit to the many local gardens.

We can work together to make this work for Billings! The campaign goes on.


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