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Editorial: 'Inclusive' River Falls: Give chickens their due

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--I have a neighbor with three dogs. They are loud and the poop is everywhere! They do not need my permission to have these animals (who do not provide food or save fertilizer for my garden) yet the city allows them. They are a nuisance as they are out and barking most of the day and night...Chickens do not run the risk of biting the kids playing on the street, but often dogs growl and frighten little ones...Eggs for all, I say!

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--You'll never even know they're there...Chickens are allowed in St. Paul. My in-laws' neighbors have some. I've never seen them at all and can't even tell they're there. People are overreacting to the idea of turning city front yards into pens with a dozen hens pecking around...

Those were just a couple of the online comments to the Journal's story, "Will chickens be allowed?"

The City Council was expected to have a first reading Tuesday night of an amended animal law allowing residents to keep up to six hens in coops on their properties. The next step, possible at the council's June 22 meeting, is a public hearing followed by a vote on the amended law.

We say, give the chicken owners a chance, City Council.

There seems to be a budding "urban chicken movement," with many towns and cities nationwide allowing residents to raise a backyard flock. Both state capitals in Minnesota and Wisconsin permit chickens.

Madison's -- passed in spring 2004 -- allows four hens (no noisy roosters) in a coop no closer than 25 feet from the nearest neighbors' living quarters.

It's reasonably argued that chickens can provide healthy, protein-packed, home-grown eggs, quality nitrogen-rich fertilizer and pest control.

The urban chicken movement meshes with other "sustainable" initiatives that some of our citizens, businesses and institutions have embraced: Community gardens (see the latest set featured this week in our Greenwood Elementary School story), rain barrels, solar panels, not to mention the always popular farmers market.

As the two Journal online readers assert, chickens are relatively harmless while animals already allowed -- typically dogs and cats -- bring their own problems. Cats prey on the songbird population while police are often sent to investigate calls about barking, roaming and defecating dogs.

Local retailers would have ample opportunity to cash in on the chicken law amendment. They could sell consumables like chicken mash (feed mix formulated for laying hens), grit (necessary for chickens' digestion), plus fencing supplies, waterers and feeders, coop and hutch kits, egg scales and brushes, poultry-laying nests and more.

Homegrown chicken raising turns us back to our agrarian roots. It's not for everyone, but there are legitimate reasons to make the option available. If there's opposition or enough people with reservations, the City Council should amend the animal law for a one-year trial of chicken ownership and re-examine it then.

Online Poll: Damage tops the list. What do you find most appalling about the Gulf oil spill?

A) Long-term environmental damage and short-term economic ruin along the coastline - 42%.

B) Slow, inadequate and often misleading response from the company responsible, British Petroleum - 28%.

C) The government's oversight of offshore drilling and subsequent handling of the disaster - 16%.

D) Nothing really except maybe the repetitious media coverage - 14%.

To vote on this issue, go to www.riverfallsjournal.com. A new poll question appears each Friday morning.

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