Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Urban Livestock

Normal, Illinois is considering allowing residents to raise and house chickens within the city limits. The city council is still discussing the regulations that would accompany allowing these "urban chickens" in neighborhoods, but I can't help but laugh. Is it just me, or can you picture these little gals (hens only) with their baggy jeans, sideways caps, and large, gold chains? The picture I have of "urbanized" livestock, chickens in particular, is laughable.

I realize that this is not the case, and these hens will not be sporting urban wear, but regardless of how these chickens look, the premise of this still makes me laugh. It is hot right now to be self-sustaining...whatever that really means... to be in charge of your own food source, raise your own stuff, be able to live off of your land. I get that. We do that. However, we do that on nearly 2500 acres of crop land and hundreds of acres of pasture, and we're still under fire by animal activists. How is putting little urbanized hens in coops in your backyard better than allowing our cattle to graze in a fenced pasture? How does some one who spends all day in an office or at school or some other workplace know the first thing about keeping these urban chickens healthy, happy, and productive?

I'm not saying that you shouldn't garden, keep a few animals, or try to be your own food source. That is absolutely not my argument. My argument is that if we're going to be okay with urban chickens, get off the back of the American livestock farmer a little bit. I would like to think that my husband who not only grew up on a livestock farm, but holds a master's degree in agriculture in college knows a little bit more than some one who just wants to fiddle around with eggs. I'm all for others trying to understand agriculture and try to live it, but this whole thing seems like a big double standard to me. I would love to hear Michael Pollen's opinion on this. How could a little coop be okay with him?

Regardless, I will continue to follow this story, and will continue to chuckle every time I hear the phrase, "urban chickens," picturing the little gals wearing large clocks on chains and listening to loud music. The noise ordinances should not be limited to just clucking in this city. The city council should be careful with the verbage on that one!


  1. LOL - I never thought of "urban chickens" like that but now whenever I hear that I will laugh!!

    In Sacramento "urban chickens" are prohibited also but many people still have them (they was an article in the paper about it - that is the only reason I know). People in the city are trying to get the regulations changed. I agree that people who raise chickens in the city know less about it than a poultry farmer but I think that the knowledge they will gain from it will make them respect farmers that much more.

    I would hope the people who are encouraging the keeping of chickens in the city are not the same people people bad mouthing animal agriculture. That is probably the case - but you are right - it makes no sense.

    I think people who bad mouth animal ag are the people who truely don't understand what is happening in the industry. They take a movie they see and think that every single animal is treated that way - they think it is the rule, not the exception as it is. They think animals are raised by a huge corporation that only wants to make a profit and cares nothing about their animals. I know I am preaching to the coir here, but it is so annoying to me that people who do not understand what is going on try and influence other people. Ugh!! Anyway, great post - you really got me thinking (and laughing)!!

    Sarah from The House That Ag Built

  2. That's a funny mental picture--urban chickens.
    Wouldn't they just shorten it to "chicks" then?

    I think we need more people raising their own food--especially food that poops and needs to be fed. I think some exposure to that--especially on really cold, snowy days, when you're really tired from working all day and the last thing you want to do is go outside and clean up manure.
    I think that will give folks a little more appreication for farming. I just think we're going to have to get urban swine for that to really happen. (Chickens don't poop enough!)