Friday, October 2, 2009

Speaking of urban hens

Weren't we? Anyway, Sharon Astyk has a great post on a great idea: "Right to Urban Farming" laws. Excerpt:

Now obviously, in city centers, standard right to farm laws can’t be applied wholesale. First of all, most of the farms have been removed - that is, we’re not talking about protecting existing farmers, but enabling new ones so the “sniff before you move” test can’t be applied here. Second of all, I think we can all reasonably agree that some kinds of agricultural and livestock production are probably not appropriate in urban environments, and that living in cities requires a high degree of accomodation of others.

That said, however, 5 of the 6 largest US cities permit chickens in backyards. Many have minimal or no restrictions on urban livestock - there are goats in LA and pigs in Brooklyn, and chickens nearly everywhere, and people manage to get along quite well. A friend of mine has 5 acres in an affluent suburb of Boston (it wasn’t affluent when she bought them), and has horses, goats, a pig, chickens, turkeys and geese. I know another person with three cows inside the city limits of Evanston.

But there are also cities that permit no livestock, not even poultry - as Gene Logsdon has put it, “you can have a barking, crapping dog the size of a pony, but not three quiet hens.” In other cities, there may be elaborate and excessive laws that benefit neither residents nor the city that has to enforce them - for example, in Beverly, MA, where my mother and step-mother keep 4 hens, they were required to get permission from every single one of their abutters, to have their property inspected, and have a yearly inspection by the town vet. Any increase in flock size requires more queries, more permissions, more visits. Meanwhile, the next town over has a “six chickens per household” flat policy - no inspections. Given the cost in time and effort to her city, as well as the barrier having to approach your neighbors offers, this process really ought to be streamlined.

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