Chickens In The News

Raising chickens has become so popular I decided to create a page on this site to bring you the latest news concerning chickens and the people who raise them. Or, as you will soon read, about the struggles some are having in trying to raise them. Folks like me who don’t have to deal with silly city and county ordinances sometimes take for granted the freedom we have, and how lucky we really are.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) would prefer we all adopt the vegan lifestyle, but knowing a lot of us cannot kick our “meat addictions,” the organization decided to put up a reward to encourage laboratory-grown chicken.
In theory, in vitro meat would be pathogen-free, eliminating food safety risk in beef, pork or poultry grown in a lab. In vitro, or “cultured” meat, is not imitation meat like those vegetable protein products that are suppose to taste like beef or chicken. In vitro meat is real, even though it has never been part of a living animal.
Four years ago, PETA offered a $1 million reward to the first scientist who could cook up the first test tube chicken in a laboratory. PETA now says the deadline is being extended to 2013 to give scientists who are pursuing the prize more time to work on their in vitro projects.

New Yorks Mets reliever Tim Byrdak turned the team’s luxurious clubhouse into a chicken coop reently — buying an $8 hen in Chinatown that he kept stashed at Citi Field. “We’re going to call him Little Jerry Seinfield” Byrdak told reporters. It’s a nod to an episode of “Seinfeld” in which Kramer buys what he thinks is an egg-laying hen and names it after his Met-loving neighbor,Jerry. The bird later turns out to be a champion cockfighting rooster.

Urban chickens are a growing concern for wildlife managers throughout the West because of their tendency to attract bears and other predators, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials advised the Glenwood Springs City Council recently. But the one thing that seems to work to keep bears and other predators out of chicken coops is electric fencing, area wildlife officers Kevin Wright and Dan Cacho said during a continued discussion of new rules that would allow Glenwood Springs residents to keep backyard chickens. “The proliferation of chicken coops in small towns is becoming a significant concern as we look at ways to minimize conflicts with wildlife,” said Wright, who covers the Aspen area. “Once we start having problems we’re going to get called out, and it’s the bears who pay the ultimate price for that.”

Across the country, chicken ownership has surged in popularity, and cities have responded with ordinances that enable residents to legally raise hens. Some communities even embrace them. Raleigh, N.C., hosts an annual Tour D’Coop to showcase more than a dozen of its backyard henhouses, and Charlottesville has a similar event.

A West Virginia chicken farmer is suing the EPA to stop it from imposing wastewater rules on her farm as part of a multi-state effort to clean up Chesapeake Bay. Lois Alt, owner of Eight is Enough farms in the Old Fields section of Hardy County in the state’s Eastern Panhandle, argues the EPA has overstepped its authority by ordering her to stop polluting streams and obtain discharge permits under the federal Clean Water Act. Alt says any waste-tainted runoff is agricultural storm water, not “process wastewater,” and that means it’s not subject to regulation under the Clean Water Act. “The only water that runs off the farm is water that falls as precipitation on the roofs or on the farm yard,” herlawsuit maintains.

Think the pink slime scandal is gross? There’s even more unappetizing news, this time from the poultry department. By testing feathers, researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that “healthy chicken” sold in your supermarket could have very well been raised on a steady diet of prescription, over-the-counter, and even banned drugs. The full implication of people eating chicken containing these drugs isn’t even known, although previous studies have shown carcinogenic arsenic fed to chickens–something approved for use in nonorganic chicken farming–does wind up in the meat.That’s why folks like us raise our own isn’t it?

Raising chickens within the city limits is a growing phenomenon in Austin,Texas and across the U.S. In early April Austin’s 4th Annual Funky Chicken Coop Tour offered visitors the opportunity to show their kids where eggs come from, view new chicken coop designs and have an opportunity to “talk chicken” with other poultry enthusiasts. The tour hosts will be on hand to share their experiences with chicken care, maintaining harmony among the chickens, people and pets, and much more. The tour highlights the diversity of chickens and their coops.

Keeping chickens is legal in many cities and has taken off as part of the urban farming movement. JustFood, a nonprofit group that encourages sustainable and local agriculture, has an educational program called City Chicken, which teaches the basics to New Yorkers: Since 2007, the classes have routinely filled up and the schedule is constantly expanding. “In the spring, you can watch the color of the yolks deepen from week to week, and the taste changes, too,” said Cathy Erway, a graduate of the program who keeps hens on a rooftop in the New York borough of Brooklyn.

Students at Ava Wanas Montessori School in Sykesville, Md. were recently learning about Mexico, so the school’s administration thought making egg burritos and quesadillas would be a fun way to bring the lesson to life. McKenzie Ditter, the school’s administrative assistant, decided to use the chickens they have on the schools property as an educational tool. The chickens have been at the school for nearly a year now, after the Sykesville Town Council passed an ordinance last May allowing educational facilities to raise chickens on their property without the 200-foot property setback that is otherwise required.

World’s most expensive chickens? Yang Sizhong raises chickens on a bamboo-covered mountain in Yuyao, East China’s Zhejiang province. “These birds are the least chicken chickens in the world,” said Yang at the two-acre plot he established. “They can scare off eagles and fight off snakes, fly as high as 200 meters and run faster than human beings.” The former marketing manager of a top menswear company charges 1,088 Yuan ($215 U.S.) for each of his feathered friends – more than 10 times the usual price. The eggs, which have pink, blue or green shells, cost 20 Yuan each – 20 times the normal rate. Yang attributes the popularity of his chickens to the growing concern for food safety in China. “I guess I have an inborn concern for the quality of the food we eat every day,” said the 45 year old Yang. “I find my concerns increasing with age, like the grey hair on my head.”

Randy Klocke of China Grove,N.C.,makes mobile chicken coops—which he calls henpens- and also raises 700 chickens at his Rooster Hill Farms in China Grove. Recently while hauling three of his mobile chicken coops to Atlanta for a convention of urban chicken growers he was flagged down by a woman motorist.Thinking something was wrong, he pulled over to the side of the road. woman motorist.But she immediately began asking him about his chicken coops. “She wrote me a check right there on the interstate,” Randy says. Randy and his wife, Cynthia, sell the eggs the chickens produce (the Farm Fresh Market in Salisbury carries them) but the eggs are more of a felicitous sideline. Randy mainly keeps chickens in order to sell them with his Henpens. Randy got the idea back in 2008, after his job as executive director of Northgate Academy, a private Christian K-12 school in Salisbury, ended when the school closed because of the economy. He had some hens that he’d acquired for what was then a hobby farm and had built some breeding barns for them. Those didn’t work out the way he wanted, so he put the barns on Craigslist. He was shocked when he got 21 calls asking about them. He began to realize that people were looking for something they couldn’t find — an easy way to keep backyard chickens. The pens weigh about 220 pounds, and — with the addition of the handles — are easy to move around. Their dimensions make them portable in a pickup truck.

Raising backyard chickens is back in La Salle,Il., at least for the time being.
In early January the city council approved an ordinance banning the keeping of chickens in town, allowing a six-month grace period for a handful of residents keeping chickens to find new homes for their birds.Two weeks later, after hearing arguments from residents on both sides of the issue, the council narrowly agreed — by a 5-3 vote — to rescind the recent chicken ban and will have a committee consider possible chicken regulations. Corissa Childers represented one of three families who spoke in favor of allowing chickens in the city. Her family has been raising about six chickens in their yard on Joliet Street near 11th Street since this past summer. Reading a prepared statement, she extolled the virtues of backyard chickens, such as providing educational benefits for her children; supplying the family with a source of homegrown eggs, which she said are often healthier than store-bought eggs; and being able to serve as living compost creators by turning kitchen waste into small amounts of nutrient-rich manure.

After a 45-minute debate and a close decision to let nearly one-quarter of Davidson County (Nashville, Tn.) opt out, the Metro Council voted 21-15 in January to allow residents to raise hens in their back yards. The legislation, which awaits Mayor Karl Dean’s signature, will allow people living in residential zoning districts to keep as many as 6 chickens, depending on the size of their property, for an annual permit fee of $25. Chickens won’t be allowed in front yards, and roosters will be prohibited.

For the second summer in a row, inmates at the Sandusky (Ohio) County jail are raising a small brood of chickens — 60 White Mountain Broilers that are almost ready for butchering — in a small coop in a fenced-in area behind the sheriff’s office. Beyond the coop is a lush green vegetable garden where inmates raise crops ranging from sweet corn to cantaloupe for the jail’s kitchen. Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer said that because vegetable seeds, chicken feed, and all expenses are covered by donations, the miniature farm saves the county thousands of dollars a year. “I’m very blessed with what kind of citizens we have in Sandusky County, to donate the money to take a dream and make it a reality,” he said.

The chicken raised by the inmates is especially lean and tasty. Last year, the 100 chickens produced nearly 600 pounds of meat for the jail’s kitchen. Because the jail’s 1.5-acre garden at times produces more than the jail can handle, he said the sheriff’s office donated about 375 pounds of produce to local food pantries and soup kitchens last year. It hopes to increase its storage space soon, though, with the donation of a walk-in cooler that will be situated outside the jail kitchen, Deputy Seaman said.

When Julie Peterson’s children asked her if they could have a pet eight years ago, she didn’t just want a cute critter to pet. She wanted a pet that would give back. She decided on chickens. “I thought they’d be utilitarian,” the Galena, Nevada resident said. Today, Peterson’s flock of more than 100 chickens, about 25 ducks and two geese yield 15 to 20 eggs per day. Besides having a steady supply of eggs to cook with, Peterson trades them to friends, neighbors and coworkers. Her family regularly enters the birds into show competitions for prize money and has raised two to be eaten. The chickens eat her weeds, clear bugs from her yard and leave fertilizer on the ground. They also chow down on scraps from her kitchen and the hospital where she works. “I probably take home 20 pounds of green garbage a week that I give to my chickens,” Peterson said. “And they love it.”

While Nevada doesn’t see quite as many chicken enthusiasts as California and the eastern half of the country, the chicken culture is growing fast. “It’s new, it’s growing and it’s growing rapidly,” Peterson said. Peterson belongs to the Northern Nevada Poultry Fanciers Association, which involves about 20 families spread across Northern Nevada and parts of California, she said. When she got involved with the group five years ago, the organization got about five inquiries a year about raising chickens. These days, the association is more likely to get five inquiries a month.

A proposal that the town of Port Royal,S.C. is considering is literally for the birds. The town is considering an ordinance that would allow residents to keep up to six chickens on residential property. Chickens currently are allowed only on property zoned agricultural. Mayor Sam Murray says he had no idea so many people in the community were interested in raising the birds. Under the proposal, the chickens would have to be kept in backyards in a clean, sanitary pen or structure at least 40 feet from the home of neighbors.

Father Joseph Heuberger, who raises bantam chickens, was one of 15 stops recently on the Capital City Chicken Coop and Garden Tour in Salem,Oregon. Along the tour, participants saw a variety of garden and coop styles — mobile coops, greenhouses, composters and beekeeping operations. Father Heuberger was the second person in the city to receive a permit after urban chicken farming was legalized in early 2011, and the parish rectory now has a coop with three hens.

The Dallas Tx. city council recently voted to allow owning of up to five chickens, hens only, within the city limits as long as they cannot be seen from the road

Who would have thought New York City residents would be interested in raising chickens. But that’s exactly what’s happening. Brooklyn resident Jennifer Lyon sees it as a simple way to return to childhood experiences and connect with the land. “It’s so hard to get out of the city,” Lyons told CBN News.”It’s so hard to get connected to nature – so having chickens is just like a little moment.” Another New Yorker, Martha Lazar, says that chickens are relatively easy to care for,and “it’s a lot of fun. We really enjoy having them and it makes for good party conversation. People used to think we were crazy a few years ago, and now it’s getting to be more popular and people have a lot of questions about it,” she said. “Chickens are interesting, because they’re both pets and food,” said Noah Leff, who owns three chickens of his own. “You develop an emotional attachment with them.” Leff’s three chickens, which produce about 18 eggs a week,roam around his backyard in Bedford-Stuyvesant, scaring his cat and digging for worms. His neighbors don’t mind though — but then again, he gives them free eggs. Across the street, the Walt Shamel Community Garden has also jumped on the chicken bandwagon, it has seven hens of its own. Members of the garden take turns caring for the chickens and share the eggs that they produce. “A few garden members were skeptical at first,” said Greg Anderson, president of the garden. “But now we get a lot more visitors. People will come in just to see the chickens. Kids love them.”

New Jersey residents are showing quite an interest in raising their own chickens. Rutgers University professor Michael Westendorf said he has noticed a significant interest in reviving the practice of raising chickens. Westendorf said his office has received an increase in calls in the past 10 years from residents looking for advice on starting their own backyard flocks. “I think people want to produce their own food if they can, buy local food if they can, and get back to a simple way of life,” Westendorf said. Mary Hussey, of Middleton, N.J., began raising her own birds in 2004. She now shows her chickens in poultry shows around the state and advises others on how to start their own flock. Initially, it’s a food thing. When you don’t have chickens, you don’t know what you’re getting into, but you know you’re afraid of the food,” Hussey said. “People don’t know getting into it how great they are — now I want more chickens and another coop!” Abby Ray, 26, and her fiance, Thomas Gallo, 28 of Harding Township are among a younger segment of the population becoming more interested in growing its own food. The couple keeps six chickens in a homemade coop next to a vegetable garden in their backyard. Kurry Walsh, manager of Rick’s Saddle Shop, with locations throughout Monmouth County, says that chickens are now the fastest growing segment of the pet population. “If you’d have told me five years ago that people would want to buy chickens, I wouldn’t have believed you,” Walsh said. “The good thing about buying chickens is that you know there are no chemicals going into the egg

Health advocates have been concerned for years about the use of arsenic-containing drugs to kill intestinal parasites and promote growth in chickens. Roxarsone, made by Pfizer, is one of the drugs used for this purpose. Its arsenic is the organic (carbon-containing) form, which is less toxic than the inorganic form. However evidence has been accumulating that the organic form can change into the more toxic, inorganic form, a known carcinogen. The Center for Food Safety, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, and several other consumer and agriculture groups petitioned FDA to ban the drug three years ago. After conducting their own tests, the FDA found that chickens fed organic arsenic in the form of roxarsone had higher levels of inorganic arsenic in their tissues. The FDA got Pfizer to “voluntarily” withdraw the drug from the market. Did we really need further evidence that our food is not safe?

Residents of the Jefferson Park neighborhood of East Point, Ga. say as many as 8 chickens have been free-ranging on their streets,and they want to keep it that way. Neighbors say the birds have lived in a vacant lot behind a row of homes on Bryan Avenue after they escaped from a chicken coup almost three years ago. Recently someone complained about a rooster crowing, and now Fulton County Animal Control has gotten involved. People here don’t want the county to trap the animals, they want the birds to stay a part of their community. “They have been lovingly referred to as the Bryan Avenue rogue chicken gang,” said Sheila Merritt. “They definitely belong to the community and we feel a sense of ownership and responsibility for them.”

Steve and Renee Kohn of Hollywood, Fl. are being sued by their neighbors, Grant and Sandra Einhorn,for refusing to remove 15 chickens from the back yard of their home in an upscale Hollywood neighborhood. “They cluck starting in the morning. It is on and off throughout the day,” we have feathers in our pool, and when it’s hot out, it smells like a farm”, Sandra Einhorn told a local reporter. Hollywood does have an ordinance prohibiting fowl and poultry in residential neighborhoods, and the Kohns face fines of $250 a day, which have added up to $146,000. Steve Kohn called his chickens family pets. “People should live and let live and mind their own business,” Kohn said.

Dennis Mao, a 41 year old Los Angeles resident who graduated from Berkeley with hopes of becoming an attorney, instead went into his family owned food distribution business. Mao grew dissatisfied with the commercially grown chickens found at many restaurants, and started his own business to produce chickens to sell to local restaurants. He trademarked the name Jidori Chicken, which in Japanese translates roughly to “chicken of the Earth,” and contracted with farms in the San Joaquin Valley. The birds are raised according to his specifications, are vegetarian fed and receive no antibiotics, he said.

“In the beginning it was very tough,” Mao recalled. “I literally put the birds in my car in a cooler and I went from restaurant to restaurant and showed it to them, cold selling chicken. It was literally one customer at a time.” He kept selling and soon landed Wolfgang Puck’s Beverly Hills restaurant Spago as a client. Nobu in Beverly Hills was another early customer. Mao said today he gets requests from New York and Washington, D.C. “It’s really, really local,” said Sara Johannes, chef de cuisine for WP24, which has been using Jidori Chicken since opening last year in the Ritz-Carlton/Marriott hotel tower. “It’s butchered within 12-24 hours, and if you have the chance to get your hands on impeccably fresh poultry, why wouldn’t you?” The celebrated Rivera restaurant in South Park is another one of Mao’s loyal customers. Chef de cuisine Joe Panarello said chef John Rivera Sedlar has been using Jidori birds since opening in early 2009.

A Broward county (Fl.) city says that a local business has run afowl of laws that ban people from raising chickens on their property, according to a recently filed lawsuit. Hallandale Beach’s USA Express, Inc., has decided to fight the charges that the city filed against them in civil court. The city claims that “USA Express is keeping and maintaining wild chickens,” according to the recent filing, USA Express vehemently denies any wrongdoing. A company spokesman said “the so-called wild chickens are free roaming and are not housed, fed, watered, harbored, nurtured, kept or maintained” by the corporation or its employees.” After they asked the city to provide witnesses to prove the alleged code violations, the city’s response was that the decision was just “because they say so,” according to USA Express.

Albany,N.Y. Mayor Jerry Jennings has vetoed a plan to legalize backyard chickens in the city and it’s upsetting a lot of people.The mayor said his office has received more than 50 threatening phone calls since the veto. Jennings says he isn’t against the idea of backyard chickens, but says he couldn’t approve legislation that he says wasn’t well thought out. “The legislation itself really didn’t get into what the fines would be or how it was going to be enforced,” Jennings explained.

Albany resident Michael Guidice, who was forced to get rid of his chickens, says the fight will continue until he can have them back. “We’ve demonstrated through robust social media campaign and persistence and civic engagement that we can move issues we care about in Albany and we’re looking forward to taking that energy into the future,” Guidice said.

Famous people raise chickens too. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker is also a fan of raisng her own chickens. As a child, Walker’s family in Georgia helped pay for her music lessons by selling eggs laid by the family’s chickens. Today she has 12 chickens and enjoys the memories they bring back of her childhood. When asked by a reporter why so many people today are raising their own chickens, she said “people want to eat eggs that are not poisonous. They want to eat chicken that hasn’t been tortured. They want to reconnect with a way of life that’s so much more agreeable to humanity than what we’ve endured the last 50 years with factory farming.

Facebook founder and billionaire Mark Zuckerberg has said that he will now adopt a sustainable diet where he will only consume meat from goats, pigs, and chickens that he has hunted himself. Zuckerberg apparently posted a Facebook update in May after doing so. Conservative rock ‘n’ roller Ted Nugent, a veteran hunter himself, has praised Zuckerberg for his decision to only eat what he kills. Nugent even reached out to Zuckerberg to offer him tips on how to kill, clean, and dress game. Nugent told the New York Daily News that he is “not so much surprised but excited that a man of that demographic and this era’s power is coming forth and using the terms ‘I’m killing my food. I’m slicing their throats.’ That is perfection. I’m sincere. I want to teach him the spirituality of minimalist, honest consumerism.”

Oprah Winfrey’s next-door neighbor has given an exclusive insight into her strange friendship with one of the world’s most famous women. Interior designer Penny Bianchi and her husband Adam built their self-designed French farmhouse home from scratch and had been there two years when Oprah moved into her $52m ‘Promised Land’ estate in Montecito, California, in 2001.

Soon after moving into her dream home, a curious Oprah poked her head over the fence after spotting Penny feeding her pet chickens. When she said ‘good morning’ the grandmother nearly fainted in shock and claims her life has never been the same again. ‘She said ‘good morning’ and I said ‘how do you like my chickens’ it was so embarrassing. She said ‘I love your chickens’ then I managed to say I’m Penny and she said ‘I’m Oprah’.

A group listed on Facebook as Lake Worth (Fl.) Chickens is pushing to change the city’s code so residents can keep “a small number” of hens in their yards. A petition on the website Change.org headlined “Lake Worth City Commissioners, Let Us Have Hens,” had gathered 242 electronic signatures. The anonymous organizers of the Lake Worth urban-chicken movement argue that other cities such as New York and Chicago allow residents to keep limited numbers of chickens and that people should have the right to produce their own food.

Dwayne Johnson and Brian Giampaoli want to build a chicken coop to house up to 20 hens on their 3-acre estate in the historic district of Gastonia, N.C. “I think, for someone to spend $20,000.00 on a chicken coop is… most people would probably think it’s outrageous, but we have to do that in order to maintain the architecture and the style our home is built around,” said Giampaoli. The City of Gastonia sent a denial letter to Johnson in May stating “Your site plan appears to be in compliance with the applicable requirements of section 10-18 of the livestock ordinance.” But they were still denied a permit from the city. Kristine DeJong and her husband Ronald sent a letter to the city stating they don’t want the coop because it’s too close to their home. Others neighbors with nearby property think the chickens could decrease property value. Johnson and Giampaoli plan to apply again and say if they are denied they will pursue legal action agains the city.

The Yakima (Wa.) City Council is considering recommendations to allow residents to keep up four hens under city code but no roosters. City planners found that dozens of cities across the country, including Seattle and Portland, have struggled to devise sensible rules for backyard chickens. No two cities have the same rules. City Councilwoman Kathy Coffey says city officials are trying to craft codes that balance noise complaints and sanitation with the desire by chicken lovers to have fresh eggs and know where their food comes from.

approved on a 3-2 vote in June by the New London City Council. Under the conditions, Greg Rasner’s flock of laying hens will be limited to four birds. But no roosters will be allowed. Last year New London mayor Bill Gossman sought the council’s permission to obtain a permit to raise chickens himself. Following a public hearing his request was denied on a 2-2 vote.

Milwaukee recently passed an ordinance allowing residents to have chickens on their property.It requires a $35 permit and allow up to four hens. Owners of all directly or diagonally abutting properties, including those across an alley, will have to give written consent before a permit could be issued. Roosters and chicken slaughtering would be prohibited. Chicken coops and yards together would have to provide at least 16 square feet per chicken, and no enclosure could be located in a front yard or closer than 25 feet to another home.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has awarded researchers from the University of Georgia and the U.S.D.A. almost $1.6 million to build a better chicken,one resistant to the deadly Newcastle Virus. The research time will be working on new technology that will let them breed disease-resistant chickens. Every year, Newcastle Virus kills about one-quarter of the millions of chickens in sub-Saharan Africa, where poultry is a critical source of income and protein for farmers and their families.

Salt Lake, Provo, West Valley City, Spanish Fork and Orem are just some of the Utah communities that recently approved or considered ordinances allowing residents to keep backyard chickens. Kory Bertelson, manager of the IFA Country Store in Riverton, said he has seen an increase in sales of chickens and poultry supplies. He said his store sold about 6,000 chicks this year and the Salt Lake IFA store sold about 10,000. And there are many other retail outlets for chicks and supplies along the Wasatch Front serving poultry hobbyists.

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