Newsweek Magazine – The craze for urban poultry farming.
The New Coop de Ville
By Jessica Bennett, NEWSWEEK
Published Nov 17, 2008
As it turns out, Mackin is hardly an anomaly, in New York or any other urban center. Over the past few years, urban dwellers driven by the local-food movement, in cities from Seattle to Albuquerque, have flocked to the idea of small-scale backyard chicken farming—mostly for eggs, not meat—as a way of taking part in home-grown agriculture. This past year alone, grass-roots organizations in Missoula, Mont.; South Portland, Maine; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Ft. Collins, Colo., have successfully lobbied to overturn city ordinances outlawing backyard poultry farming, defined in these cities as egg farming, not slaughter. Ann Arbor now allows residents to own up to four chickens (with neighbors’ consent), while the other three cities have six-chicken limits, subject to various spacing and nuisance regulations.
Many urban farmers are taking that motto to heart. In New York, where chickens (but not roosters, whose loud crowing can disturb neighbors) are allowed in limitless quantities, there are at least 30 community gardens raising them for eggs, and a City Chicken Project run by a local nonprofit that aims to educate the community about their benefits. In Madison, Wis., where members of a grass-roots chicken movement, the Chicken Underground, successfully overturned a residential chicken ban four years ago, there are now 81 registered chicken owners, according to the city’s animal-services department. “There’s definitely a growing movement,” says 33-year-old Rob Ludlow, the Bay Area operator of BackyardChickens.com and the owner of five chickens of his own. “A lot of people really do call it an addiction. Chickens are fun, they have a lot of personality. I think people are starting to see that they’re really easy pets—and they actually produce something in return.”