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Challenging the Chicken Bylaws

The challenge of Urban Chickens makes regular appearances on the national newspaper circuit. The most recent is another New York Times article – this one about the City of New Haven, where some residents are just plain baffled by the fact that the zoning bylaw prohibits keeping chickens. “It seems extraordinary to me that you could have a cat or a dog or a caged bird, but you can’t have a chicken,” stated one resident, who has flown under the radar as an urban chicken keeper in this city…

Our Towns – Cities Consider Ordinances for Urban Livestock – NYTimes.com

Of course, not many New Haven residents or Yale professors were raising chickens a few years ago. But some combination of the locavore craze, the growth of immigrant communities with traditions of raising hens and the recession making the idea of free eggs or milk in the backyard attractive, cities and suburbs around the country are reviewing all manner of critter ordinances.

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Some people just like chickens as pets, some want to take control of a small part of their food supply – it truly is a David and Goliath battle to regain a say in who grows our food and where. Unfortunately, there are still municipalities out there who have restrictive bylaws preventing the keeping of almost any animal other than cats or dogs – Castlegar, the rural (suburban) city of 7,500 that we live in is one of those municipalities that has a bylaw.

Our Towns – Cities Consider Ordinances for Urban Livestock – NYTimes.com

But the clear trend is toward being more permissive. Jennifer Blecha, who did a doctoral dissertation on people’s attitudes about urban livestock, surveyed the zoning codes of American cities and found 53 allow hens, 16 prohibit them and 9 make no mention. In general, Ms. Blecha said, cities are much more tolerant of domestic livestock than suburbs.

This week, the City of Castlegar is holding a public meeting to hear resident’s input into the keeping of chickens in residential areas (Wednesday 6th May, 7pm at the Community Forum), and UrbanWorkbench.com in conjunction with the Kootenay Food Strategy Society, holding a public screening of a great chicken movie, “Mad City Chickens” – this is being screened at the Castlegar and District Health Centre on Thursday 7th of May at 6.30pm. Find out more here.

Mike Thomas

Mike Thomas P.Eng. ENV SP, is the author of UrbanWorkbench.com and Director of Engineering at the City of Revelstoke in the Interior of British Columbia, Canada. If I post something here that you find helpful as you navigate the world of engineering, planning and building communities, that’s wonderful. But when push comes to shove: This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.