Thursday, May 19, 2011

7 Myths about Urban Chickens, a Civic Soapbox by Pat Foreman

There are many false beliefs and prejudices about keeping chickens, and the seven issues that routinely surface are:

  1. disease, 
  2. noise, 
  3. odor and flies,
  4. predators and rodents,
  5. property values,
  6. appearances, 
  7. what will the neighbors think?

Here’s the facts about each issue.

Myth 1:  Urban Chickens Carry Diseases. 
Fact: Small flocks have literally no risk of avian flu transmission to humans. The 2006 Grain Report states: “When it comes to bird flu, diverse small-scale poultry is the solution, not the problem.” Why? Because small flocks have better immune systems.
Myth 2. Chickens are Noisy. 
Fact: Laying hens — at their very loudest — have about the same decibel level as human conversation (65 decibels). Roosters make most of the noise and many times they're not allowed in urban areas.
Myth 3. Waste and Odor. 
Fact: a forty pound dog generates more doggie-do (about ¾  of a pound) then ten chickens (two-thirds of a pound of poo daily ).  Both poops are smelly. But the key is to keep the chicken manure from accumulating, and this is done by composing.Composted chicken manure is valuable as a high-nitrogen fertilizer.

Myth 4. Chickens Attract Predators, Pests and Rodents.
Fact: Predators and rodents are already living in urban areas. Wild bird feeders, pet food, gardens, fish ponds, bird baths, and trash waiting to be collected all attract raccoons, foxes, rodents and flies. Modern micro-flock coops, such as chicken tractors, elevated coops and fencing provide ways of keeping, and managing, family flocks that eliminate concerns about such pests. 
And about those pests, chickens are voracious carnivores and will seek and eat just about anything that moves including ticks (think Lyme disease), fleas, mosquitoes, grasshoppers, stink bugs, slugs, and even mice, baby rats and small snakes.
Myth 5. Property Values Will Decrease.
Fact: There is not one single documented case that I know about a family flock that has decreased the value of real estate.
Myth 6. Coops are Ugly.
Fact: Micro-flock coop designs can be totally charming, upscale and even whimsical.Common design features include blending in with the local architectural, matching the slope of the roof and complementing color schemes.
Myth 7. What Will Neighbors Think?
Fact: You can’t control what anyone thinks, much less your neighbor. But in my experience, once folks experience the advantages and charms of chickens, the prejudice and fear evaporates; especially when you share some heart-healthy, good-for-you eggs from your hens.
Often overlooked is the value of chickens as clucking civic bio-recyclers. They can divert tons of “waste” from the trash collection systems. Chickens will eat just about any kitchen “waste,” including “gone-by” leftovers that have seasoned in the refrigerator. Combine their manure with grass clippings and leaves to create compost and top soil.

My chickens are charming, amicable and entertaining beings that bring so many advantages to my home garden. They are truly “pets with benefits”.

May the flock be with you!
--Patricia Foreman has kept chickens for years in Rockbridge County