Press-Republican

FYI...

November 15, 2012

The rise of the urban chicken

CLINTON, Iowa — There’s one more reason to cluck these days.

For those who have admired chickens from afar and have longed to raise them from day-old baby chicks, backyard chicken farming is becoming a reality in big cities and rural communities across the country.

The popularity of chickens can’t be disputed — they can be found everywhere from chicken-chat lines and forums on the Internet to poultry magazines, such as “Backyard Poultry” and “Chickens”, lining end caps in agriculture-based stores.

According to Theresa Loe, one of the producers of "Growing and Greener World" and a chicken expert herself, "chicken keeping is hot right now."

Alicia Rheal, one of the co-founders of Mad City Chickens in Madison, Wis., agrees chickens are here to stay.

Rheal, who helped spearhead legalizing backyard chicken keeping in Madison, said more and more people want to get closer to their food source. They want to have a connection with the land and become more self-sufficient. Even though there isn’t a lot of cost savings that goes into raising chickens, it does, however, “strike a chord with something (people) have been missing.”

Rheal adds that raising chickens makes people more aware of animal conditions and can be used as an educational tool for children, in addition to providing feathery buddies.

“(Chickens are) delightful companions in the backyard,” Rheal said.

As more and more city dwellers become urban chicken farmers, Rheal offers key pieces of advice to keep the peace with the neighbors.

“It can wreak a lot of havoc if you don’t follow the rules. We tend to give away eggs to make neighbors happy,” she said.

Rheal also suggests letting the neighbors help name the chickens and letting them become involved in their chickens’ lives by allowing them to give the hens their food scraps. This way, they can get on board the “chicken campaign.” By allowing neighbor involvement, “they are invested in them.”

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