My Guinea-Fowl

City Councils squawking about traditional practice
By Christine Ross

Picture having fresh, tasty eggs every morning. And a friendly, funny chicken to deliver them. These days, you’d be the envy of your neighbors.

At least, some of them. Not everyone is happy about the latest silent movement: backyard chickens.

For most of human history, people have kept backyard chickens as pets, food and a

source of income. Many City Councils across the USA are legalizing urban chickens again, Unfortunately, Virginia Beach, Virginia, is not among them.

Lisa Dearden, a Richmond, Virginia backyard chicken activist, said “Backyard chickens are an election issue.” She also said that “City Councils are being voted out across the nation” for their continued refusal to allow urban chickens.

Last year, Tracy Okroy of Virginia Beach, Virginia started raising backyard chickens. She loved chickens and their eggs, and got some from a client. At this point, there are quite a number of Virginia Beach residents who have joined the nationwide trend of having backyard chickens.

Nevertheless, someone filed an anonymous complaint against Ms. Okroy earlier this year. Code Enforcement for the City of Virginia Beach came by to stop her from keeping chickens in a residentially zoned area. Now Ms. Okroy is known across Hampton Roads Virginia as the “Virginia Beach Chicken Outlaw.”

When this writer visited Ms. Okroy’s home, there was very little smell from her well-kept chicken coop. Tracy explained that the chicken waste does not smell as long as you keep it clean.

In addition, the chickens are quiet. She does not keep roosters.

Andy Schneider of Georgia is the author of “The Chicken Whisperer’s Guide to Raising Chickens.” He speaks across the nation and on his radio show “The Chicken Whisperer” in support of backyard chickens.

Sometimes people object to backyard chickens because they are said to be “noisy and messy.” When asked about this, Schneider said
“First, I ask them how they know that chickens are noisy and messy? Many who claim that chickens are noisy and messy have never even kept chickens!”

Ms. Okroy ended up being fined in court and is now facing another trial. It is possible that the Judge can remove her chickens.

For most of history, people have kept backyard chickens as pets, and for food and income. Up until the 1950s and 1960s, many Americans kept backyard chickens. As mass production of poultry increased, backyard chicken ownership fell into decline.

In recent years, even celebrities like Martha Stewart, and Tori Spelling have made owning chickens chic and fashionable again. With increasing awareness of genetically modified food, arsenic in chicken feed, and cruelty to poultry, many Americans are returning to the tradition of backyard chickens.

Not only that, chicken waste makes great fertilizer. Some people raise backyard chickens for that reason alone.

Although it can be expensive to own backyard chickens, the superior nutritional value of homegrown eggs makes it worthwhile.

Besides, chickens are fun and hilarious pets. They are a great way to teach children about where food comes from and responsibility in caring for animals.

If you want to keep backyard chickens, check with your local city and county ordinances. Tracy Okroy is now facing criminal charges for keeping backyard chickens. If someone reports you to the authorities, that could happen to you.

There are other factors to consider when keeping backyard chickens. You will need to clean the chicken coop often. It will take several months of feeding baby chicks before they can produce eggs.

Hens can only produce eggs for 2-3 years. In the past, people simply slaughtered the chickens for meat. Nowadays, people are reluctant to slaughter a pet and eat it.

What about roosters? Most urban homesteaders don’t keep them to avoid annoying the neighbors.

That in itself creates problems because nature provides us with equal numbers of male and female chicks. Sexing them can be a challenge until they are 4 months old.

Chickens are social creatures and must live with other chickens for companionship. Therefore, do not buy only one chick.

In addition, chickens are vulnerable to predators.
Keeping them in coops will protect them.

Chickens are also vulnerable to infections that can wipe out entire flocks. For that reason, new chicks must be quarantined from the rest of the flock until they are shown to be disease free.

Fortunately, we do not have Avian flu in the USA and therefore there is no fear of getting it.

In addition to providing companionship, eggs, meat, and fertilizer, chickens are a natural form of tick control. Billy Joel and Christy Brinkley commissioned a study on chickens to see if they can control the ticks that spread Lyme disease. Indeed they can, the study found.

When caught early, Lyme disease is easily treated. Sadly, once it becomes chronic, Lyme disease can cause death, insanity, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer ’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, Multiple Sclerosis, and paralysis. Chronic Lyme Disease is very difficult to treat and does not always respond to even intravenous antibiotic treatment.9

The Virginia Department of Health has pointed out on its website that prevention is the best method of treating disease. The VDH sent a letter to all Virginia physicians that Lyme Disease is now “endemic” in Virginia.

The other advantage of having backyard chickens is that there is less chance of spreading salmonella through large flocks. Since the pens are easier to keep clean than the huge henhouses in commercial operations, there is less chance of spreading disease.

Arsenic is now being used in chicken feed for meat-producing poultry. Although arsenic-laced feed is not supposed to be fed to egg laying hens, raising backyard chickens is the only way to be certain of that. Be sure and avoid Roxarsone, a type of chicken feed laced with arsenic.

Lisa Dearden also said that “The economy has contributed to the backyard chicken movement. I think there have been other things influencing the movement, too. The movies “Food, Inc.”, and “FRESH” have exposed the industrial food system to the masses, and people were horrified to find out that commercial poultry is so inhumanely raised. So, many have started with raising chickens for a cleaner, healthier source of eggs, and in some cases – meat”

When asked if City Councils are changing their minds about keeping chickens, Schneider said “Yes, without a doubt. Cities all across the country are changing their laws to allow backyard poultry. When approached with the idea, more cities seem to approve them than ban them.”

For more information, see:


House Chickens


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