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Evans: Let them have chickens

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | NOVEMBER 09, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa City City Council will consider an ordinance allowing the residents of Iowa City to house chickens in their backyards.

Again.

In case you haven’t been around the past four years, here’s a recap of the chicken situation. Groups and individuals in the past have petitioned the council to be heard on the issue of backyard-chicken raising. They bring the issue up, the council listens, and then measure is voted on and thrown out.

The argument for backyard chickens usually goes something like this: Cedar Rapids and Ames allow residents to raise chickens. And really, the chickens won’t be so bad for everyone else because even Cedar Rapids has only given out a handful of permits.

Yes, permits — the industry will be regulated in Iowa City, so unpermitted chickens and poor health standards wouldn’t be tolerated by city officials. The city requires proper chicken-keeping etiquette, such as certain restrictions on chicken coops and pens.

Also, backyard chickens allow the owners to know exactly where their eggs are coming from, and they can choose to provide a chemical-free environment for the chickens to grow. Better eggs are better tasting, fresh, and nutritious.

There are also obvious downsides to raising chickens in an urban area, including exposure to diseases commonly found in chickens skuch as salmonella, E. coli, and histoplasmosis. For neighbors, it increases the chances that the air will smell like a farm or the sound of clucking will wake them up in the morning.

In the past, I have argued hard against allowing chickens. I didn’t like it in 2009, I didn’t like it in July, and I don’t like it now. But the issue is obviously important to a passionate, though small, group of people, and the negatives (such as chickens being disgusting) aren’t strong enough to restrict a sect of the population’s want.

Let these people have chickens.


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