Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Urban chickens

(I "borrowed" this cool image from someone named John Coulter--I don't know if that's even legal, but I thought if I gave him credit for it, it might be OK. Thanks, John, whoever you are.)

The city council in Portland, Maine, is holding a public hearing tonight on a proposed "Urban Chicken Ordinance." If approved, the ordinance would allow residents of Maine's largest city to keep a limited number of backyard chickens, as long as they obtain a permit and adopt good husbandry practices intended to limit noise, odor, and the possibility of attracting rodents to stored feed.

Several of Portland's neighboring towns, including South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Biddeford, Westbrook, and Falmouth, already have Urban Chicken Ordinances. In the two years since South Portland enacted theirs, the city council has had no complaints (probably because roosters aren't allowed under their ordinance).

I neither live in a city, nor own chickens, but I might someday (own chickens, that is, not live in a city), and I think it's great that residents of urban Portland may be allowed to keep a few chickens. After all, most of us have very little idea about where our food actually comes from, and the growth of the local foods movement is a wonderful thing.

The proposed ordinance is also being touted as a way for people to save a little money on food, although the city is proposing a $12 per chicken annual fee for a permit, which seems excessive. After you shell out $72 to make your half-dozen egg-layers legal, build them an ordinance-compliant coop, and feed them, I doubt you're going to save much on the cost of eggs. But I've eaten homegrown chicken eggs, and they really are undeniably tastier than store-bought, not to mention the advantage of knowing your chickens haven't been fed unnecessary antibiotics or other weird chemicals.

I've also heard that chickens make pretty good pets, although most of the poultry I've met haven't impressed me as the most intelligent critters. And just in case you're thinking of bringing one into your home, I know you'll be glad to learn of the availability of...wait for it...chicken diapers. Yes, it's true, and here's the proof:

The website where, apparently, you could once order chicken diapers is, sadly, shut down for technical repairs, but you can still access their FAQ page, which will answer such burning questions as, "I just put the diaper on my bird and it is acting funny. What can I do?" and "My bird has a lot of fluff on the backside. Can she wear a diaper without getting poop stuck to her?" Yes, really.

(God, I love blogging! I can write about anything, and no one, no one, can stop me! Bwaa-ha-ha-ha-ha!)


  1. OK, now you're scaring me.
    I think chickens would make fine pets, but please, no chimpanzees.

  2. And I quote, "God, I love blogging!".

    (told you so)

  3. I think I will be ok with you having chickens for pets and for eggs, but if you try to eat the birds I may chain myself to the chicken coop in protest.

  4. We have lots of chickens. I want to leave an opinionated comment about not having them for pets (they only lay for a year or two and then sponge off you for the next 6 years) but I don't want to hurt the feelings of people who have pet chickens by implying that chickens are stupid and beady-eyed. Fresh eggs, yes. Chicken soup, yes.

  5. As a new chicken owner I can tell you that it's a whole new world out there. We've had 5 hens and a rooster for 2 weeks and already I've set up a homemade incubator which has 10 eggs in it that we're anxiously watching! I've been scouring the internet about anything chicken. Check out this youtube video for more interesting chicken diapers - I laughed out loud when I saw the bee!