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What the cluck?

BY JENNIFER DELGADO | APRIL 09, 2009 7:30 AM

Iowa City resident Stacey Driscoll said she hopes one day her 3-year-old daughter Adilyn will be able to run in the backyard freely and raise her pet chicken.

“It would be exciting for our family to raise our own chickens,” the 32-year-old said.

Driscoll, a self-described animal lover and avid gardener, created an online petition earlier this week asking Iowa City residents to support raising up to five chickens in their backyards.

The current Iowa City ordinance, which prohibits livestock from being raised within city limits, is under revision. Driscoll said she hopes the petition, which has garnered more than 200 signatures, will speed up the process.

Advocates of the movement said allowing these birds will help gardens in many ways — their droppings provide fertilizer, their scratching tills dirt, and they produce eggs.

The constant source of protein would help many families who are having financial problems in today’s faltering economy, they say.

But some city officials said they had mixed feelings about the move.

City Councilor Mike Wright said he was not against the movement, but he did have some concerns about the possibility of abandoned chickens.

“I don’t think we’ll see chickens running around the streets of Iowa City,” he said. But “a few birds could get abandoned.”

Fred Meyer, the director of Backyard Abundance — a website that shows people how to make improvements to their backyards — said deserted chickens and hens should be treated like other homeless animals.

“They should put the same regulations on [the chickens] and enforce them,” he said.

Driscoll said she understands the reservations but thinks working with the Iowa City Animal Shelter and using such websites as Craig’slist will help find homes for the unwanted creatures.

“I think that if someone is responsible enough to care for chickens, they’d be responsible enough find the chickens a good home,” Driscoll said.

Meyer said he thinks there has been a positive response to the ordinance revision. He, too, hopes the petition will give the advocates leverage when asking to change the current city rule.

“Chickens are great,” he said. “We need to learn how to raise food locally, and chickens are incredibly helpful animals when doing that.”

Jim Clark, the supervisor of Cedar Rapids Animal Shelter, said chickens are prohibited within the limits of Cedar Rapids, but the center does occasionally care for chickens. The shelter works with farmers to adopt the abandoned birds, he said, usually charging $2 for each adopted chicken.

“They are not much different than keeping other animals,” he said. “You just feed them grain and water.”

Meyer said he thinks ultimately raising chickens in the backyard is a great idea.
“They don’t take a whole lot of care, and they give a whole lot back in return.”


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