Monday, May 18, 2009

Traverse City Chickens

(5/18/2009 Update - Article in the Washington Post: Hot Chicks: Legal or Not, Chickens Are the Chic New Backyard Addition)

Article in the Record Eagle: Residents want to raise chickens in TC

The Record Eagle then followed up with an uninformed editorial that was too cute by half: Raising chickens or feathers?

Here are their arguments and my responses:

City officials will review the legality of chicken ranching before they turn to the planning commission for review. But expect to see feathers fly if anyone in a position of authority takes Dante's plan seriously.

Elizabeth Whelan, president of Boardman Neighborhood Association, hopes the chicken ranch plan never hatches, and predicts "a lot of potential problems that we don't need" if it flies.

What problems city chickens may cause are not listed or discussed and thus this comes across as people just being afraid of change.

Other residents worry about noise, smell and wayward feathers

An ordinance that only allowed hens would address the noise issue. People who worry about the smell have no idea what they are talking about. Plus, the new city master plan would address this issue because all uses must be confined to the business - so if there were smells noticeable off-site then this would be in violation of zoning.

However, the smell from the wastewater treatment plant is worse and is noticeable on days when the wind is from the east or south.

Ann Arbor is among the cities across the U.S. that allow residents to keep a few fowl, as long as wannabe hen-housers follow the rules. But expect much clucking if a similar ordinance is pitched here. Rightly so, in our book.

And is it any wonder that Ann Arbor makes so many "best city" lists?
-Ann Arbor chosen top Michigan city for small start-up companies
-The 100 best places to raise a family Best Places To Live

Another interesting coincidence is how many of these "best cities" are also places that allow the freedom of backyard poultry.

Some ideas perfectly dovetail with a community's mood and attitude. And Traverse City shouldn't be so rigid that it can't or won't accept alternative notions. But raising chickens, ducks, etc. raises too many unnecessary questions and concerns -- what happens if someone's dog kills a neighbor's chickens? What if a freedom-seeking fowl dashes into the street and a harried motorist swerves to miss the bird? What if the sky really does fall?

What happens now if a dog kills a neighbors cat; if a dog runs into the road? Seriously - this is your anti-chicken argument?

And isn't Traverse City proper known as a progressive community with a love for local foods? What is more local than fresh eggs from your backyard?

Really, there's no good reason to prohibit people from keeping hens in their backyards. It is not as if people are trying to revive the idea of riding their horse around town.

Unfortunately, it seems the only chickens in Traverse City are the Record Eagle and the same old tired neighborhood curmudgeons.

Get the facts, cities from urban Brooklyn to rural Kansas are embracing the idea of urban farming. For more information see:

Newsweek: The New Coop de Ville: The craze for urban poultry farming.
USA Today: Chickens given roosts in urban backyards Backyard chickens find new popularity in suburbia
Christian Science Monitor: Whole lotta clucking going on in cities