Are Chickens Forcing the Rural Back in Montana Cities?

One of the big questions we get when talking with people about the urban chicken issue is that they feel that “chickens should be on farms” and assert that “we moved away from the country to be separated from farm animals”. The concern seems to be that their peaceful backyards are going to be overwhelmed with the neighbor’s miniature chicken stockyard next door.

The simple wording of the proposed ordinance indicates a maximum of 6 hens or less, and no roosters allowed. But even the minimal head count aside, we assert that urban hens, in the setting and context of city backyards, are not farm animals. They are small pets with benefits, food-producing birds only slightly larger than the ones that come to our wild bird feeders, bug-eating, fertilizer-producing, quietly clucking companion animals. We aren’t advocating bringing back our grandparent’s huge chicken houses and taking over entire backyards. None of us want to have a stockyard of any size beside, or in, our backyards! Urban chickens are a completely different theory, and if you Google it, you will see what we mean. There is a reason that over 65% of American cities have clarified or passed ordinances permitting the responsible keeping of a limited number of hens, and it has nothing to do with moving the farm into town.

What about the urban chicken-friendly cities of Missoula, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, or New York City? Do those cities scream “farmyard in your backyard”?

Too liberal of comparisons for you? How about Bozeman? Havre? Round Rock, Texas? Madison City, or Cleveland?

Urban chickens are obviously not voters, but when their owners vote, they run the gamut of parties and platforms. This isn’t about politics, it’s about sustainability. It’s about local foods and their superior health properties to that which is commercially farmed then trucked to our supermarket stores where it waits on the shelves until purchased. It’s about being a little bit less reliant on importing every bite that feeds our families, and a little more self-reliant.

Is there something wrong with teaching our kids that animals can provide food? Of course not, it’s part of the circle of life, it’s reality. We as the BBHI are not advocating the urban slaughtering of chickens for meat, but rather the keeping of egg-laying hens for eggs. Once a hen has passed her egg-laying years (which begins to taper off after two or three years, but can continue for several more) and if the family no longer wishes to keep her for her ability to dispose of kitchen leftovers and scraps, help clean the yard and/or garden of pests, and produce compostable materials, she can be farmed out (to use the original purpose of the phrase) to an actual farm where her care/keeping is no longer the family’s concern.

Urban hen-keeping is neither radical nor political; it is not about bringing a farm into town or ruining neighbor relations… rather it is reasonable, rational, and responsible.


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