Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chickens in the City: On the News!

City chickens are still in vogue!

Last night our local news station WBAL posted a segment about chickens in the city ("More Chickens Calling Baltimore Home.") One of the two chicken owners featured was fellow urban farmer, Denzel Mitchell!

As quoted in the WBAL story: Kevin Usilton, director of Baltimore City Animal Control, counts the chickens, so to speak."It's kind of becoming a new phase for people to become very organic and to have chickens," he said.

Yes, it seems like the phase of owning chickens in the city is still holding strong. I hope bees and worms get the same rap. Maybe we can even start getting goats in a few special cases!

If you're interested in learning more about Baltimore's urban livestock regulations, the WBAL site also has a link for the city's exotic pet regulations (which includes chickens, pigeons, pot-bellied pigs, and bees).

It seemed fitting to me that this news story appeared just as a discussion about chickens was popping up on the Baltimore Foodmaker's google group discussion board. There are many different types of foodie, and sometimes the views of vegetarians and locavores run counter to each other!

The core of the discussion touched on how we as humans interact with animals as pets and as food. Perhaps I should have called this blog post, "Chicken: Pet or Food Product?" !

The discussion appeared after someone asked about which type of chicken coop to build. One member replied with the view of chickens as pets:

RAISING CHICKENS: this is a plea to everyone considering a backyard flock. It has become very fashionable and popular for backyard flocks for fresh eggs and meat. Have you done your research? Chickens are NOT carefree animals and given veterinary care (which by the way is required in Baltimore City) can run into the thousands of dollars. Even finding a vet that treats chickens is next to impossible as there are only three I know of in the state!

When you purchase chickens you are contributing to an awfully cruel industry as well (to horrible to mention so if interested, it is easy to research) and that goes for even purchasing from a neighbor. Remember 50% of all eggs hatched are roosters and most people don't want to kill them so they usually abandon them after they find that not many Humane Societies will even take them.


PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, if you must have chickens (and they are a great addition to the family), do the research and then adopt! .... Chickens have all the feelings and emotions of dogs and cats. They form attachments to their humans and with one another. They grieve and they have pleasure. Treat them like one of the family ;-)

And another member as a chicken owner who raises domestic animals for food purposes:

I don't feel like it is irresponsible to slaughter a hen that is unproductive. In fact, I find it a lot more responsible than buying chicken from the grocery store.If you want to treat your chickens as pets, great. It is not a requisite to owning chickens however.

As for vet bills, I would hesitate about spending thousands of dollars on my own health, much less that of a chicken. In fact, when so many people go hungry everyday, it would go against my own morals to do so. I don't think it is appropriate to insist that people treat chickens like members of their family. I have a small flock of happy, healthy free range hens that decidedly work for their keep in providing me eggs. When they fail to do so, I have no problem with slaughtering them for meat.

In my eyes, one of the benefits of owning chickens is that it forces us to confront the idea of meat as a living being. I'm curious to hear from all of you... where you do fall on the idea of chickens or other livestock?

How do you decide the balance between pet or food?


Esperanza said...

This is becoming a pubic debate in Oakland, CA. With new zoning laws being created to regulate urban livestock (currently permissible and regulated case by case) there are vegan activists that want the city to stop allowing "livestock." Their arguments fill me with questions. If we stop calling certain animals livestock and call them pets, are these folks asking the city to restrict what can be kept as a pet? Will rabbits become illegal? Why can't you keep a "pet" traditionally known as livestock in a loving caring home and if you eat animal products, and meat- eat them too? In fact, haven't these same activists fought for improved conditions at factory farms? So why fight that backyard livestock keepers who have loving set ups for their animals? By not allowing people the freedom to raise their own food producing animals, you ensure reliance on factory farming. Its just backwards to think you will stop people from eating eggs, honey, butter, milk, cheese...and meat. That is a personal decision that has to come from their own motivation, not by having it forced upon them. [deep breath] Ok. I'm done. Thank you for writing this compelling post!

AlizaEss said...

Esperanza, I just got tipped off to this interesting book that touches on this issue... can't wait to read it soon! It's called "Some We Love Some We Hate Some We Eat" and it's all about the different types of relationships animals have with humans >

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