This little hen went to Seattle, Washington, to be more precise. If you happened to read the first part of this story, you know about a current debate in Montreal regarding the feasibility of keeping a few hens at a private residence. The same debate seems to be emerging across America and concerns on this side do not differ much from those north of the border.
Seattle, Washington’s estimated population in 2009: 602,000. Montreal population at that time: 1,620,700. Seattle Tilth, a nationally recognized non-profit educational organization whose mission it is to educate people about organic gardening and the conservation of natural resources, specifies that the city of Seattle allows 3 chickens per 5000 square feet and one chicken per additional 1000 square feet.
Sanitation, of course, is one of the main concerns, but experts agree that a chicken that is properly cared for is just as clean as a cat or dog. What about the noise? I wonder if concerned parties have visions of a typical “Green Acres” situation where Oliver Douglas, in the famous mid-sixties series, argues that the early morning rooster chant is what living close to the riches of the land is all about while his wife Lisa argues in favor of the harmonies of New York traffic. Seattle Tilth offers a simple solution to preserving the silence of neighbors’ early morning quiescence: “Many chicken owners keep the coops dark until later in the morning, or ply neighbors with fresh eggs”.
So, are city leaders and managers open to the idea of welcoming a cackling brood to town? According to a Seattle Times article, “A family from the Matthews Beach neighborhood toted a rooster into the Seattle City Council chambers last month to testify in support of urban fowl. Council members didn’t flinch. Instead, they fawned over the bird. Awww,’ cooed Council President Richard Conlin, Nice!”
This is the “Year of Urban Agriculture” in Seattle. This summer, the City Council is reviewing in-city farming regulations that may very well be some of the most permissive in the entire nation.
I wonder how this might affect the value of homes. Here in the country, we accept livestock as part of the scenery. Our main concern is, perhaps, the cleanliness of installations. But there is a wide difference between purchasing a home in the green hills of Vermont that happens to have a nice barn attached and purchasing a townhouse in the midst of 602,000 residents when the neighbor’s backyard contains more chicken coops per square foot than kids’ toys, or so we would think.
When asked by Seattle Times, a Washington State resident put things in a slightly different perspective from what we might expect. As an active participant in the urban-farm movement, Nancy Merrill, of Wallingford, keeps three hens named Calliope, Sparky Rascal and Red Ellen. “The neighborhood kids bring by bugs and worms to feed the flock. It feels like maybe a ‘farmette’. I like the routine of it. There are chickens on every block in Wallingford. It’s a change from lawns and ‘House Beautiful.” When a neighbor’s house went up for sale, Nancy made sure her three feathered friends were visible to potential buyers. “No one made a peep”, she adds.
Perhaps curb appeal is not so much about appearances after all, but rather about that little something close to the earth that adds a sense of vitality.
Also watch the video clip at left!