the state

– of no chickens in my backyard. by vastate
Wednesday, 29 July 2009, 18:49
Filed under: -of harrisonburg, -of jhumphrey, -of politik

i’m a little confused.  this was the headline in the DNR today:

Chicken Idea Flies In Council


really, it doesn’t mean a whole lot for me or the vast majority of my fellow city residents.


you have to live on at least a 2-acre plot in order have those chickens that are now “legal.”

which, to the glee of the Virginia Poultry Federation, “effectively keep’s the city’s ban on chickens in place except in rare circumstances.”

i am not surprised of the final result of the city council’s decision.

but i am surprised about this little tidbit:

Degner joined Baugh and Councilman Ted Byrd in defeating the proposal.

cough. sputter.

sounds like someone got a little visit from the big boys at the chicken plant.


according to mayor kai degner, he did not “want to be personally responsible for increasing the risk of disease that could decimate the area’s multi-million dollar poultry industry.”

if you’ll remember a few chicken myth-busting facts we posted awhile ago:

  1. Owning chickens means hosting salmonella in your backyard – the food safety folks have done a great job sensitizing the public to take care in handling chicken so as to avoid salmonella. The simpletons spreading salmonella fears as an argument against urban chickens don’t seem to understand that salmonella is a problem of safe food handling, not of responsible pet ownership.
  2. Backyard chickens will spread the bird flu – the fact is, it’s through backyard flocks that we might insulate ourselves from the spread of the H5N1 virus and the like that tear through the million-bird in-bred flocks of large-scale agribusiness. But, of all the arguments against urban chickens, this is the point most often deployed as an end-of-discussion “so there.”

kai did post a rather vague explanation of his leanings:

So, what do I think?  Well, I’ve been listening and researching.  City council meetings, reports from staff, reviewing other cities’ ordinances, community discussions, lunch meetings, phone calls, emails, property tours, discussions with poultry industry folks and elected officials, sustainable living experts, impromptu sidewalk conversations, barbershop talk and more – all of this has helped shaped my opinion.

After all these conversations, I agree with most arguments in favor of allowing chickens, including the overall need to make lifestyle changes towards more sustainable living and that certain concerns about chickens are unwarranted.  That said, I am currently hearing a significant majority opinion against allowing chickens, based on a combination of concerns (some, admittedly, more founded than others).

sigh.  i’ll admit that as a publically elected official,  this “public opinion” argument makes a little more sense than his “disease” reasoning posted in the DNR article.

i’ve written nicholas detweiler-stoddard of the harrisonburg backyard chicken project who has appeared before on the state to explain chicken-related things.  we’ll see what his reaction to the vote is.

what do you all think?

it does seem like a lot of folks are very anti-chicken.


but i say, if backyard chickens fly in NYC, Portland, Seattle, and on and on…why not in Harrisonburg?  the only difference i see lies in the lobbying power of the local chicken plant heavyweights.  and that.  is highly disturbing.


4 Comments so far
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Yeah, I’m disappointed in Kai for the first time since he became mayor. Not because I disagree with his decision, although I certainly do, but because I haven’t yet heard him articulate the reasons for his decision in any kind of meaningful way. I refuse to believe, despite “evidence” to the contrary, that agribusiness corporations who pack chickens into tiny boxes and feed them junk and remove their beaks can do a better job of raising healthy, happy animals than I can in my backyard. I just cannot let my brain accept that. But Kai seems to have bought into that argument that chickens are a biosecurity threat, and I just don’t get it. And I don’t see him explaining it. But maybe I’ve missed that.

Comment by Sarah

Mike and I went to the council meeting and it was SO interesting. I found myself getting a little furious…not at all of the nay-sayers, but the grouchy ones whose arguments seemed so rooted in fear and greed.

One of the most interesting things from a pro-chicken person who had really done their research in calling around and talking to the appropriate people – was that in cities where this type of ordinance has been adopted, there’s almost always a savage uproar before it happens but as soon as it’s gone into effect, the issue pretty much disappears. There are virtually no complaints, no problems, no one cares anymore because 2-4 hens do not prove to be a big deal.

Was so proud of the 6 Shalom-ers (including Dave Wiens) who spoke. 🙂

Comment by Rachel Herr

eww, i didn’t know that little smiley face icon would show up like that

Comment by Rachel Herr

uh, the short term mid air activities that my chickens occasionally preform would not be described as flying. nice try DNR.

Comment by Matthew Lowen

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