July 23, 2010

Chicks in the City

Marc Comtois

Some folks--who I'll conveniently pigeon-hole as "Whole Foods" types--want to raise chickens in Providence.

About 35 people packed a small City Council meeting room on Thursday in support of a proposed ordinance that would allow residents to raise up to six chickens.

Proponents said raising home-grown hens provides a local source of high-quality protein, fertilizer and natural pest control. They said it also gives urban children a chance to interact with nature.

“It’s important for children to have an understanding of where their food comes from and an appreciation for the environment,” said Camille Smith, a South Providence resident who says she’s been raising chickens illegally for years.

A chicken in every pot? Bah! 6 Chickens in every home! They have state support, too:
Kenneth Ayars, of the state Department of Environmental Management, noted that chicken-raising helps meet a region-wide goal of boosting locally grown food sources. Currently, less than 1 percent of Rhode Island food is locally grown; in New England, it is about 10 percent, he said.
But wait--animal rights activists aren't too keen about this idea from their (what I presume to be) whole food pals:
Dennis Tabella, director of Defenders of Animals, says the change would open the door for chicken abuse and neglect and that, unregulated, home-grown eggs would lead to an increase in cases of food poisoning and other health hazards.

“It opens up Pandora’s box,” Tabella said prior to the hearing.

E.J. Finocchio, president of the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, said in a letter to the council that chickens would only exacerbate the city’s rat problem.

Good point: there are plenty of chickens and rats at the State House, so apparently they do co-habitate. There are also concerns that the chicken license will cost too much:
Leo Pollack, education director at the Southside Community Land Trust, which helped develop the proposed legislation, said the land trust supported the idea of a permit, so long as it was not costly or difficult for poorer residents and non-English speakers to obtain.
Finally, they say "the law would ban roosters," but that strikes me as unfair--downright discriminatory!--and, apparently, unenforcable. There seems to be regular crowing emanating from both City Hall and the State House, so there must be some roosters, somewhere. As for what to do with the fecal matter generated by our urbane poultry? It can be mixed with the regular output produced at the two aforementioned buildings.

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It is an urban legend, but I have actually seen it. Cabinet doors removed, chicken wire put op, some hay on the shelves and viola! chicken coop.


Posted by: michael at July 23, 2010 9:40 AM

Of course, "it's for the children".

A friend's father was a painter for the CIty of New York. He used to regale us with stories of bedrooms being used to raise chickens and pigeons (sqaub?). Those were the days of "pigeon wars" in New York, there were stores where you could buy suits of armor for you pigeons. I have no idea where they found the warlike pigeons. I gather this was similar to cock fights, dog fights, bear bating, etc. Pretty common, I guess. I remember a picture article in National Geographic, or similar.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at July 23, 2010 4:18 PM

I think the proposed ordinance is a great idea. There are two main issues that would have to be addressed- odor and noise. The rat problem? Most chicken owners would be protective of their chickens which would probably mean bad news for rats. Chickens are easy to raise and keep, requiring 3 square feet per bird. Six laying hens can easily produce 2 dozen eggs a week. If you have ever eaten a fresh egg as opposed to a up to 100 day old store egg, I don't think you will worry so much about health hazards.
Marc, I know this post is tongue in cheek, under government's wing. But an ordinance like this would be about more individual control, No? People in Providence could do what I do in a more rural setting- a small bit of self suffiency.

Posted by: David S at July 23, 2010 6:04 PM

David S

Warwick is the first RI city to change the ordinances to allow chicken raising. I think that kids in urban and suburban places would benefit from the kind of hands on exposure to nature that only rural kids have had access to. An image of WF is starting to form in my brain...think Mr. Burns on the Simpsons.

Posted by: Phil at July 24, 2010 6:35 AM


Finally, they say "the law would ban roosters," but that strikes me as unfair--downright discriminatory!--and, apparently, unenforcable.

I have been awakened by the crowing of a rooster and I can't imagine that many would go undetected in a urban environment for long. The offending rooster who had been given the name of Frank by my children found a perch near by bedroom window and began a chicken's version of freedom of speech at as early as 3AM. Unfortunately for him I was in a position to exercise my second amendment rights and did so at a more reasonable time that morning.

Posted by: Phil at July 24, 2010 7:25 AM

I raised chickens in Ashaway which certainly is in the country years ago and my mothers side of the family has an agricultural background in nearby Connecticut.
I took agriculture at Chariho Regional High School and for many years Cranston High School East had an ariculture program. Cranston had an not so distant agricultural past. BTW the inmates at the state institutions use to raise animals and that was various farm animals.
Yes, that seems to be "clucking" about this. Without Roosters or Cocks as adult male chickens are called, it may be more quiet but hens can make noise also. This will increase poultry predators in residential neighborhoods.

P.s Forgive the pun!

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at July 24, 2010 9:46 AM

The dispute will be resolved, eventually, with the imposition of a federal per-chicken tax. In addition, owners will be required to file monthly reports with the new federal chicken protection bureau detailing each chicken's age, gender, and production. The reports will be used to ensure that no workplace discrimination occurs and that chicken workplace negotiation skills are enhanced.

Posted by: Bill at July 24, 2010 11:05 PM
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