Dependable Erection

Thursday, November 08, 2007


Holy chickenshit, Batman!

Seems like every listserv in Durham has gotten a request to sign the petition to allow chickens in the city limits.

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Currently, chickens are only allowed in Durham Residential Suburban Zone 20. There is no reason they should not be allowed in any urban backyard. A hen raised around people can be an affectionate pet that also provides fresh eggs, reduces waste by eating yard waste and kitchen scraps, provides rich fertilizer for the garden, controls pests, and brings us closer to our food source. The noise level is no more than a dog. A chicken coop that is properly designed and maintained poses no threat to sanitation. Please click on the following link to sign a petition asking the City Council to reconsider allowing chickens within the city limits:

No link provided from here. If you think it's a good idea, find the link on your own.

Here's my response:
There are two points made in the email to consider.

First: "The noise level is no more than a dog."

For a great many people in Durham, the noise level of dogs is already a serious concern, and the current means of enforcing the noise ordinance in the city and county when it comes to barking dogs is broken. Adding to this problem is not a good idea, in my mind.

Second: "A chicken coop that is properly designed and maintained poses no threat
to sanitation."

the number of dogs in Durham county that are kept in unhealthy and unsanitary conditions, tied at the end of too short chains without shelter, and often without food and water, is staggering. It's naive to think that every fowl owner is going to provide a coop that is "properly designed and maintained."

For those people who are already keeping chickens in urban environments, and are doing so without bothering the neighbors, my attitude is, what's the problem? If you're not bothering anyone, then you've got nothing to worry about.

But opening this up without providing any means for dealing with what will inevitably become a problem among neighbors is a bad decision at this time.

Labels: , ,


  • Mmmm... histoplasmosis

    By Anonymous Dan S., at 3:23 PM  

  • Here's an idea -- what if we charged for a "poultry license," which allowed one to keep some small number of chickens (I'm thinking 6-8, maybe a dozen), with an even smaller number of roosters. Make the license fee enough to pay for the extra workload that it would put on animal control to really thoroughly enforce it.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 3:56 PM  

  • i did offer that up in private email conversation with someone earlier today.

    The fee would have to be renewable each year, and revocable if a certain number of complaints (like say 2) were received about your henhouse.

    No roosters, though. No sir.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 4:00 PM  

  • Brckk, brckk brcck, brckk.

    By Anonymous steve bocckino, at 4:08 PM  

  • Fish gotta swim,
    Birds gotta fly,
    Hens gotta "brcck"
    Each day 'til they die

    Can't help
    Loving that hen of mine...

    By Anonymous steve bocckino, at 4:11 PM  

  • Hmmm... loving hens up should require a very special license as well.

    Now, I am way more Eva Gabor than Eddie Arnold, but Barry is correct:


    You have NO idea what a racket they make. I have seen mass murder occur in NYC because some yahoo kept roosters on their roof.

    And here's the rub: it is my understanding you can not get hens to lay in non-industrial settings without a rooster around to inspire them.

    If I am wrong, then bring the chickens on.

    By Anonymous CocoNut, at 4:23 PM  

  • Having lived on a farm with chickens, I don't have a problem with someone wanting to keep a half-dozen or so in their backyard, or even roaming around. Any roamers will probably run into a cat or dog and meet an untimely end though.

    I don't know why people keep comparing chickens to dogs. They're nothing like that. Roosters do occasionally crow, but they're still not all that noisy. Hens don't really make any noise apart from occasional clucking. And I lived with chickens before my hearing got crappy. The occasional drive-by stereo is noisier than a few chickens, even including a rooster.

    Histoplasmosis? I had to go look it up. And I used to live in 2 NC counties with probably more poultry than just about anywhere. Never heard of it before. Wikipedia says it's endemic anyway in about 80% of the US. Can't be too bad.

    I'm also pretty sure chickens will lay whether there's a rooster around or not.

    Are the chickens going to bother someone? I can't imagine they won't bother someone, just like those bathtubs in the yard on Club Blvd., or the displays in the traffic circle here in Duke Park. There's someone a few blocks away in OND who has a sign up in their yard about keeping cats out. Whatever. I can't be bothered with everyone who says they'll be bothered. Sorry. Personally, I think I'll find chickens less bothersome than assholes talking on their cellphones in inappropriate places. Hey, there's a good comparison! Instead of talking about dogs, let's forbid people from talking on their cellphones in cars and public places like restaurants. That'll do a lot more for health and noise than banning chickens.

    By Blogger Joe, at 6:02 PM  

  • Ah, but Joe, chickens are already banned. People are talking about unbanning them.

    I know there are numerous people in Durham keeping chickens. There's no active enforcement of the ban, but if you are making a pest of yourself with the neighbors (like slaughtering your chickens in the front yard, which those of you on the PAC2 listserv will remember from earlier this year), then you can be cited.

    If the ban is lifted, even if you make a pain in the ass of yourself, (by for instance keeping a rooster or two that crows through the night), it will be virtually impossible to get you to change your behavior.

    My position is to keep the ban in place, let people keep their chickens on the sly, and if you really must have free range eggs, go to the farmers market or hook up with someone who lives in the country. It's not hard to find someone who has an excess of fresh eggs to sell.

    Speaking of cellphones - have you seen this? (reg. required)

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 6:11 PM  

  • No offense, Joe, but this comment of yours:

    "And I lived with chickens before my hearing got crappy."

    may explain why you think roosters aren't noisy!

    In my opinion, they don't make a crowing sound, it's more like the sound of someone being strangled while simultaneously yodeling. It's a godawful sound!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:47 PM  

  • One positive angle is that if the ban were lifted, some people would probably save on their pet food bills.

    On the other hand, my neighbor's previous dog used to just toss hens up in the air and catch them, over and over. I don't think she actually ate any, but she had a soft mouth.

    By Blogger Lenore, at 9:17 PM  

  • I'm thinking of all the posts on neighborhood listservs over the past 6 years complaining about loose dogs killing cats and small dogs.

    Can you imagine the, umm, squawking, if that starts happening with chickens on a regular basis?

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 9:22 PM  

  • Well everything else in this country is resembling a third world shithole, why not add some frickin' chickens? A ruling elite, corrupt monopolies and fear-mongering religion. Perfect!

    I vote for "no chickens" inside city limits. If you want 'em, go move and leave us city folk alone.

    Does every generation have to re-invent the g-d wheel? I'm sure JIM WISE can help us unearth the original reasoning behind banning chickens. Hell, he might've been there at the time!

    By Blogger Tony, at 9:55 PM  

  • Wow. Sounds like people have a pretty visceral negative reaction to the idea of keeping chickens in Durham city.

    I don't keep any hens because it's illegal to. I'm kind of a stickler about stuff like that. I'd love to though.

    Hens (and the petition is asking for just that...hens, and a "small number" of them, at that) have way more benefits and fewer issues than y'all seem to realize.

    No, you don't have to have roosters to get eggs.

    No, hens aren't any louder than most other ambient sounds. Mockingbirds are loud.

    Neighbor strife isn't caused by hens, dogs, cats. It's caused by jerky neighbors. In any sort of close living quarters there are compromises.

    Yes, keeping hens is one more tool we have to get back to a more sustainable way of life

    And then the EGGS. Oh how yummy they are. So orangely yolked and silkenly abuminical. Yum yum yum. Even the local eggs (Latta's farm, Hillsborough) that you can get from Whole Foods are just "cage-free." I spoke with Frank Latta himself at the State Fair, and he explained that that means they are not outdoors at all, but rather are kept enclosed under a roof in a big ol' inside spot. And that's the GOOD GUY egg person.

    I'd have no problem paying $10/year to license each chicken, same as for dogs and cats. Basically any concerns I've heard brought up about chickens also applies to all other pets--noise, smell, sanitation. Oh, but I'm guessing there won't be any chicken attacks, unlike the dog attack we had on our street a couple of months ago.

    (Mind you, I love dogs. As in 'get down on the ground and roll around with them, making an enormous fool of myself' love)

    Couple of links:

    1) Random woman who keeps city chickens. You can hear how loud they are in this. Roosters are louder, but that's not what the petition is asking for.

    2) Friend of a friend from Portland telling about her experiences with chickens there. The second link is a slide show that goes along with it.

    Anyhoo, that's my take on things.

    By Blogger Stew, at 10:07 PM  

  • I'd have no problem paying $10/year to license each chicken, same as for dogs and cats.

    i'm sure that you wouldn't. But next time you're talking to Durham Animal Control, ask what the estimate is for unlicensed dogs and cats in the city.

    As i recall, the number was something absurd, like 30 - 40%. Which adds up to quite a few animals in a county the size of Durham.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 10:34 PM  

  • I just opened a licensing notice from animal control today -- they want SEVENTY FIVE DOLLARS for one animal -- according to them, it's a female of a species "TBD".

    I have no female pets, the species of the ones I have are pretty clear and $75 is unbelievab;ly high. What the heck is going on here? From here on out, my animals are off the grid.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:47 PM  

  • So which neighbors get the veto? The ones behind, beside, across the street? What if someone gives an okay, then finds the reality to be far more unpleasant than anticipated? Can they revoke their approval?

    Just imagine how much fun it will be selling houses. Does a buyer get a veto? How welcome will the chicken owner make the buyer feel if they then have to get rid of their flock?

    I say it's a can of worms. CHICKEN worms!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:34 AM  

  • I keep many a chicken on my property. They're all hacked up and stored in my freezer for my next chicken fry. And, they're pretty damned quiet until they hit the fryer. Yum!

    I agree with a previous poster that keeping chickens should remain outside of city limits. Mainly because of the noise, filth, and the possibility of more snakes in my local (as well as other predators).

    Though if one crosses my property line, bang! Chaulk up another one for the fryer. :p

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:38 AM  

  • Anon posting at 11:47-- My read of the Durham pet license was that it was $10 for dogs/cats that were unable to breed (spayed/neutered) and $75 if "intact."

    (Relevant Durham City website is )

    Please license your animals!

    Anon at 12:34--why would a neighbor get to decide whether or not someone keeps pet hen(s)? That seems bizarre.

    By Blogger Stew, at 7:20 AM  

  • With the utter lack of consideration shown on any issue by our current neighbors, and the almost-complete ineffectiveness of the city/county in dealing with housing code violations and animal control violations, I can't imagine how this would NOT cause problems.

    You wanna raise chickens, move to the country.

    And if my neighbors ever get a rooster, I'm getting a net, a hatchet and a stewing pot.

    By Anonymous mrs dependable, at 8:11 AM  

  • Face it, some folks are just too scared to know where there food comes from, or to take an active role in the 'grown local' movement.

    Supermarkets have made you all naive, shallow, and selfish.

    This argument seems to bring out all the NIMBYs, and expose all the hypocrites who shop at Whole Paycheck, saying one thing and feeling another.

    Support local farmers, support self-sufficiency, support personal liberty, support the damn chickens!

    By Anonymous Gimme A Beak, at 8:59 AM  

  • their

    By Anonymous gimme a beak, at 9:14 AM  

  • I am surprised no one has mentioned one objectionable characteristic of raising chickens: the smell.

    If people want to be self-sufficient and raise their own food, that's lovely -- go in wiht some others who feel the same way and rent a nice little co=op farm on the outskirts of town.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:26 AM  

  • It is my understanding that some of the ordinances do contain a provision requiring neighbor approval to get the chicken permit.

    I grew up in a small town, and we had chickens, pigs, cows, bees, a mule, and plenty of wildlife. You bet I know where food comes from before it gets to Whole Paycheck. That doesn't mean I want to live next door to it now. I do not want to be witness to cow milking or births, chicken killing, and especially not hog killing ever again.

    Given the inability of Durham to control the problems of wandering and abused animals - not because Animal Control doesn't try but because they are woefully underfunded and understaffed - I cannot support adding yet another area requiring enforcement work.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:34 AM  

  • %75 for an unspayed or unneutered dog or cat for a year seems pretty damn cheap to me. At least insofar as it relates to the actual cost to the community of your keeping that unspayed or unneutered animal.

    $300 a year probably comes closer to covering the cost to the rest of us in extra and unwanted puppies and kittens, in roaming dogs and the damage they cause, yadda yadda yadda.

    But, as many of the comments on this thread show, most people are unable or unwilling to consider the social costs to others of their own actions.

    Which is at the heart of my reasoning for not wishing to see chicken possession approved in the city of Durham.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 9:45 AM  

  • And actually, i need to point out that the Planning Department, not Animal control, is currently the department responsible for enforcing the livestock ordinances in the city, since it violates current zoning to have chickens, goats, etc. in town.

    I'm assuming that if the zoning ordinance were changed to allow chickens, that AC would be responsible for making sure they are treated humanely (as they are now for dogs and cats) and that Durham PD would be responsible for dealing with noise violations (as they are now for barking dogs.)

    It's pretty unclear who would have responsibility for other conflicts (smell, garbage, etc.) that might arise from people who take less than stellar care of their livestock.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 9:49 AM  

  • >>But, as many of the comments on this thread show, most people are unable or unwilling to consider the social costs to others of their own actions.<<

    EXCUSE ME -- as my post clearly indicates, I have NO unneutered female animals.

    Are YOU willing to pay $75 a year for an animal you don't own? If so, I admire your civic pride, but kindly do not accuse me of shirking my civic responsibilities because I balk at paying a fine I do not owe for an animal I do not own.

    And for the record, I do own four neutered male animals and I pay their yearly fees. I should point out the yearly fee is not $10, as has been stated, but has been $25 per animal per year for many years now. If it has been lowered -- then good. The incredible vet costs involved in adopting a stray and keeping it vaccinated and healthy puts the ability to take care of unwanted animals way beyond the reach of most people as it is. The cost per animal is more than $1,000 a year for a healthy dog and only slightly less for cats!

    Instead of lecturing people about shirking their civic duties, you people ought to be putting your energy into seeing that this town offers people low-cost on-going veterinarian care. No wonder so any animals have to be put down each year. And no wonder so many people go off the grid with their animals -- did it ever occur to you that some people have no choice? They simply lack the money.

    I'm all for respecting the rights of others, but forgive me if I draw the line at paying for phantom animals and if I point out that there are, as always, two Durham, involved in this argument -- the Durham that has money and the Durham that does not.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:15 AM  

  • I certainly didn't mean to imply that you should pay a $75 fee for an animal that you don't own.

    Your response that you will take your animals underground, however, is disturbing. As i mentioned above, Durham AC estimates that somewhere above 30% of all dogs and cats in the county are currently unlicensed.

    While i'm sure that some of those belong to people as responsible as yourself, i also know for a fact that a great many of them belong to people who can't be bothered to do simple things like have their animals vaccinated against rabies.

    There are rabid raccoons and possums in the county; hell, rabid raccoons have been found in my neighborhood in the past 15 months.

    Even if you keep your dog properly confined on your property, nothing will prevent a rabid raccoon from strolling around in your back yard. Unneutered dogs and cats are a problem that costs the taxpayers a significant amount of money. The $75/year fee for them doesn't begin to cover the social cost of these animals.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 12:30 PM  

  • There's a rooster living in my neighborhood, sort of "in the wild," but roughly looked after by a couple of families. Although he lives just a block and a half away, I almost never hear him crowing.

    As far as hens in the city limits, what I think is missing in this discussion is what the total cost to the city of policing a good policy effectively would be, in hard numbers. I'm guessing that 10 funded, supported worker-hours a year would be sufficient for each house that has a half dozen hens. That's probably a $500 cost to the city. Split that among six chickens, and you could cover that with a $85/year/hen fee. If someone's willing to pay that to keep chickens in the city limits, more power to them.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 12:58 PM  

  • Barry, I'm confused. (By the way, nice to meet you. I think we have friends in common.)

    Wouldn't keeping chickens on the sly (which you supported up there towards the beginning) be just as bad for Durham as those people not licensing other pets, which you're against?

    I can tell I won't change any minds here, but I do like the discussion, and I like correcting some of the myths it looks like people have.

    Commenters here seem to have a lot of different reasons why they do or do not agree with the possible change of code.

    When it comes down to it, my reasoning is about local foods, sustainability, and being a good land steward.

    (Aside: No, I'm not the anonymous person calling themselves "gimme a break" because I can't stand anonymity--people, if you're going to discuss something heated, the easiest way for the discussion to break down into a mess of name-calling is anonymity. There's a lot of hateful speech coming from some of these anonymous comments.)

    Some people have recommended going out to the country if you want to keep chickens. Presumably that's to keep them out of your own backyards, right? I'm not trying for snark here, just that it sounds like people don't want their neighbors to have chickens, but that they're not against chickens in general. But moving out into the country or even outskirts doesn't play well if you're committed to sustainability but aren't going to do a full out farm. Urban living is more sustainable most of the time. Less driving, more population density...etc.

    I'm sure y'all have also all seen this article from last week's Independent about chickens in city limits. If not, check it out. It's local and timely.

    By Blogger Stew, at 1:12 PM  

  • I'll stop after this comment, I promise. :-)

    Michael, do you really think that each hen will be 8.5 times the work of each dog? (Again, I'm working from the $10/year license fee quoted on the Durham city website)

    And Barry, quick clarification. The $300 you thought would be closer to the actual city cost per dog/cat, is that what you think is the cost that unaltered dog/cats carry or just that any dog/cat costs the city? I don't have my finger on the pulse of this kind of cost.

    How are the two of you coming up with these dollar amounts? I'd not want to underfund Animal Control. Do they have a breakdown of some kind that shows the cost per animal per year?

    (I am serious. Sometimes I start talking and can't stop, so I'll just follow the conversation from watching comments from here on out.)

    By Blogger Stew, at 1:30 PM  

  • 10,000 chickens crammed into a chicken house smell. A half-dozen chickens in someone's back yard aren't going to smell.

    Other vermin: chickens eat bugs, and will also swarm on rats and mice. (I imagine they'll do the same to snakes, but I don't see how chickens would attract snakes in the first place.) I know this because, again, I've seen it. Having chickens is not going to increase the vermin count. It's going to decrease it.

    By Blogger Joseph H., at 1:42 PM  

  • hi Stew - basically, i'm against irresponsible animal owners and in favor of responsible animal owners.

    on an individual basis, it's not really my concern whether or not you pay your licensing fees for the animals you own. if every animal owner was responsible (kept their animals up to date on vaccinations; provided adequate food, water, and shelter; didn't let them run loose; etc.) we wouldn't need an AC department or the revenue to staff it.

    obviously, that's not the case.

    the current ban on chickens puts the onus on those who want to keep them to be circumspect about it, lest their neighbors complain and they lose their chickens. i can live with that. it's an imperfect world.

    changing that regulation means that when irresponsible chicken owners move in next door, the burden shifts to the other party who may have to put up with the drawbacks of an irresponsible chicken owner.

    again, in this imperfect world, why create that situation when we don't have to.

    to answer your questions re: cost, the county (Animal Control is a county function) charges 10/year for a spayed or neutered animal, $75/year for an unneutered animal. Senior citizens are not charged any fee for spayed or neutered animals.

    My numbers for unlicensed animals came from a conversation with Cindy Bailey, director of Animal Control for the county, last year. After rabid raccoons were found in my neighborhood, we did an outreach to neighbors, many of whom are renters and non-English speakers, to get their dogs vaccinated. I'm pretty sure she used the figure of 30 - 40% of all dogs and cats being unlicensed, but i'd have to go back through all of my emails from October 2006 to find that. As i recall, when i did the math, that came out to a minimum of 40,000 animals, possibly as many as 55,000.

    The $300 figure is what i recall counties in the Central Valley region of California, where i lived before moving here, charging folks for unneutered animals.

    Mostly we're talking about intact male dogs and cats. The costs include damage caused by roaming packs of dogs, which tend to be mostly intact males, labor costs to manage these loose dogs, costs to shelter and euthanize the unwanted offspring that these animals are producing, etc.

    i'm also pretty sure i've discussed that figure with Cindy, and she agreed that it probably represented a realistic number, but again, i'd have to research my email archives. and i just don't have the time for that right now. perhaps after the weekend.

    thanks for stopping by. come back again soon.

    By Blogger Barry Ragin, at 1:42 PM  

  • Stew,

    I'm trying to be as expansive as possible here, in countering the argument that there's just no way we could afford to allow chickens. If insufficient inspectors are really the problem, then rather than keep the ban as is, just make damn sure the chickens pay for themselves. If you want to have chickens, would you rather have them completely banned, or just with an expensive license fee.

    Having never kept chickens personally, I honestly don't know everything that would need to be administered. But I do know that in most of the settings where I've encountered roaming chickens, they've been pleasant to have around.

    And what with loud stereos, the hogs pulling away from Charlie's, neighbors blowing horns at 6 in the morning, rooster crows are the least of my worries when it comes to noise.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 10:44 PM  

  • Shoot. I said I wasn't going to comment again. But yeah. I'd personally much rather pay for chickens than not have them legal. It would make me sad for the people who can't afford it though, who will go underground. Which would make for not-ideal chicken environments.

    Michael--and apparently gunshots over by your house? I was out. So yeah. Chicken noise not on my top list of worries. I've never heard Roo Roo the Rooster either. I'd kind of like to go say hi, though.

    Barry: say hi to Phil and give him a birthday hug for me, since it looks like you'll be seeing him today!

    --Stew (Who's too lazy to sign into blogging account before posting).

    By Blogger Jenny, at 7:32 AM  

  • A foul plan, indeed!

    By Blogger Kelly, at 4:47 PM  

  • And a little chicken related humor from the Nov. 12 Jon Carroll column:

    "Needing a new bathroom tumbler, I found a plastic mug on Clement at one of the Asian stores. It's a vanishingly pale pink, with a chick brandishing a knife and fork, sitting in front of a birthday cake with six candles. The bold type is 'Blessedness Chicken,' and underneath in small type is printed, 'With incredible magic of the pretty chicken, you too will be the best friend like a lot of many people all over the world.' "

    God, I miss Clement Street.

    By Anonymous cd, at 8:42 AM  

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