Backyard chickens are a delight, and they belong in the backyards of Montgomery County, MD. Here are a few reasons why…
Grown hens will lay fresh, healthy, delicious eggs, free of pesticides and antibiotics. Depending on the season and age of the hen, each hen will lay 4-5 eggs a week. These eggs are fresh and healthy. The eggs from hens that pasture on grass and insects in your backyard will lay eggs with twice as much vitamin E and long-chain omega-3 fats, more than double the total omega-3 fatty acids, and less than half the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids.
Chickens make great pets. Raised lovingly, they are affectionate, intelligent, curious, and entertaining. They come when they are called. Each chicken has a slightly different personality, quirks, and preferences. Chicken breeds vary in their sizes, colorings, and dispositions. You can have great fun with eclectic breeds. You’ll name them, spoil them with treats, and pick them up and hug them.
Chickens are very educational. Kids love them. Kids learn where our food comes from. The process of feeding, and caring for pet chickens informs kids about many aspects of nature, and teaches patience, responsibility, and a positive relationship and respect for food. 4-H and BoyScouts have fun, educational programs involving chickens (Chick Chain, Merit Badge.)
Chickens are super low-maintenace, compared to other pets. They don’t need to be walked, brushed, or fed twice a day. They don’t need much space. Gather eggs daily, fill their food and water containers a few times a week and change their bedding every few weeks. Depending on your setup, you can easily vacation for a week, and your birds will be fine. Just like other outdoor birds, chickens be outside in all kinds of weather.
When you raise your own hens, you know they have a good life, with plenty of room to roam, stretch their legs and wings, run about, and be normal, social birds. If you feed your hens organic feed and kitchen scraps, you know your eggs are organic.
Chickens are great composters of your kitchen scraps, eating virtually everything (except mushrooms, onions, and a few others). Reduce your environmental footprint by producing some of your own food. Reduce your municipal waste. They are omnivores, and will eat just about anything that comes out of the kitchen, including meat. They love corn and grains. They will scratch in soil, and eat pests (earwigs, grubs, beetles, fleas, ticks, spiders, slugs, mosquito larvae, even moles). Then, you can dump your chicken waste into your compost pile, and later use it as nitrogen-rich garden fertilizer.
Raising chickens brings you a step closer to sustainable living. You will feel more connected to your food, and the small steps of urban/suburban farming is a refreshing break from the rush of modern life. Most of us are just one generation from a time when many people had chickens and gardens in the city as well as in the country.
Chickens across the country
Today, hundreds of North American municipalities encourage raising backyard hens including New York, Portland, Chicago, Boulder, Honolulu, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Cincinnati, Durham, Victoria, Guelph, Niagara Falls, San Diego, and Seattle. Many chicken-friendly ordinances and laws from elsewhere in the country are listed in the Backyard Chickens LORE database, or this 2012 list.
Many communities have advocated successfully for backyard hens. The following documents from other cities, towns, and counties summarize their argument, many of which parallel our arguments in Montgomery County, MD. You will see the common themes and arguments for why communities want backyard hens.
Chickens for Montgomery, Ohio - From 2009, detailed document.
Chickens for Salem, Oregon (PDF) – Research packet from 2010.
Sarasota CLUCK (Citizens Lobbying for Urban Chicken Keeping) – blog
Knoxville Permaculture Guild - blog & forum.
It’s time for backyard hens to be welcomed in Montgomery County too!