By Gretchen Anderson
June 29, 2012 (El Cajon )--Three cheers to the El Cajon City Council for its recent decision to give backyard hen keeping a try. El Cajon residents spoke and the city listened. The fight to keep backyard chickens began in 2004, when the people of Madison, Wisconsin took on the city for the right to legally keep hens.
So what’s the big deal? Why are so many people keen on backyard hen keeping? Aside from the superior eggs, natural pest control and nitrogen rich fertilizer, people keep backyard poultry for three main reasons: economics, property rights and food security.
Last summer we had food recalls of strawberries, ground turkey, bean sprouts, cantaloupe, apple juice and lettuce. Additionally, two summers ago we witnessed the largest recall of eggs in United States history. In August of 2010 the Food and Drug Administration recalled 550-million eggs. They were contaminated with salmonella and sickened countless consumers. As a result, people want to know from where there food comes. Currently in the United States, there are 9-million people keeping backyard chickens. That number is expected to double this year.
But, what about the noise? The possible spread of disease? The smell? Those are all valid concerns. Through my national research, I have found backyard chicken keepers to be good stewards of the environment. They maintain very clean coops and there is little smell when you keep 3-6 chickens. When I teach beginner hen keeping classes, I advise: “If it smells worse inside your coop than it does outside your coop, CLEAN IT!” It is plain, common sense.
Cleanliness will also abate the spread of disease. Mayor Mark Lewis’ concern over chickens spreading Newcastle Disease Virus (NDV) doesn’t fall on deaf ears. However, there hasn’t been an outbreak in domestic chicken flocks in the U.S. since 1974. As for the noise, within the backyard chicken movement, roosters are a cock-a-doodle-don’t! The male species, with his endless crowing, generally maintains an outlaw status. And, yes, you still get eggs from hens—without a rooster around.
Thousands of cities and counties (both small and large) across the country have adopted favorable chicken keeping ordinances. My hope is that El Cajon and its residents find success in this ordinance change and eventually join the growing number of municipalities that welcome backyard chickens.
Gretchen Anderson is a national backyard chicken advocate. The views expressed in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.