OPINION – One by one, city after city across the state is falling into line. Acceptance is growing. It’s finally becoming mainstream. Despite concerns from outspoken hardliners, the “sky is falling” scenarios have failed to materialize.
Anti-discrimination ordinances? Hardly. It’s the practice of keeping backyard chickens.
The practice of keeping backyard hens is hardly cause for concern in Utah’s rural areas, but causes a surprising amount of heartburn in larger municipalities. Nonetheless, Salt Lake City, Provo, West Valley City, St. George, and a host of other cities now allow residents to keep chickens.
Of course, their chicken ordinances reflect varying degrees of grudging acceptance.
Some, like Springville, require a special license and have strict regulations. Others keep the rules to a minimum by setting reasonable limits on how many hens may be kept and forbidding noisy roosters within city limits.
Those who choose to live in neighborhoods governed by HOA rules or CC&Rs may be bound by more stringent rules than the rest of us. Why should keeping chickens require an act of government anywhere else?
Josh Daniels, writing for Libertas Institute, rightly points out that a permit shouldn’t be required for doing something that is fundamental to private property rights. Daniels writes:
In modern municipalities, zoning restrictions seem to prohibit land uses that seem benign or arguably reasonable. It is worth noting that many of these restrictions have come from the lobbying of real estate developers who want to ensure higher returns from subdivision development by using government force to ensure a certain neighborhood feel. Such efforts are best left to private contract through the use of deed restrictions—not city hall.
This principle applies to more than just keeping backyard chickens. If a person is not violating the rights of those around them, then they should be free to use their property without having to get government permission.
John Locke in his “Second Treatise On Civil Government” wrote:
The great and chief end, therefore, of men’s uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property.
This means that even our local governments should first seek to protect our property rights before trying to control or deny them.
When the Cedar City council debated a chicken ordinance a couple of years ago, resistance to residential hens was primarily from one city council member who was a real estate developer.
This council member stated that people who want to keep chickens should live out in the country since neighbors may not agree with chicken-related sights or smells. Another concern was that animal control would spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with chickens.
Further inquiries into actual animal control calls found that out of more than a hundred calls, only three involved chickens. None were complaints.
One had to do with a resident’s chickens having escaped their coop and a concerned neighbor feared for their safety. Another call was in regard to a dog killing someone’s chickens. The third call was about a chicken that was wandering about town, and the person didn’t know what to do with it.
While it’s true that keeping chickens may not be for everyone, there was a time when the federal government encouraged the populace to keep hens as a means of self-sufficiency. It referred to such a practice as “a profitable recreation” in times of peace, and a “patriotic duty” in times of war.
Besides the thrill of doing our patriotic duty, there are additional benefits to keeping residential hens.
Chickens are among nature’s most effective forms of pest control. They’ll eat bugs, weeds, and spiders at every opportunity. They are better than any garbage disposal for taking care of unwanted food scraps and from having to feel guilt for the starving kids in China.
They are an excellent way to teach kids about personal responsibility and the cooperative arts. Keeping the chickens fed, watered, and protected from the elements and potential predators requires real commitment.
There’s also an undeniable satisfaction and appreciation of nature that comes when gathering eggs from your hens.
Yes, there are smells associated with them and their coop and run must be kept clean to keep the odor to a minimum. Keeping the neighbors supplied with eggs goes a long way toward generating goodwill for your hens.
Backyard chickens are simply one aspect of recapturing the spirit of agorism that used to epitomize our national self-reliance.
Keeping residential hens actually reduces our governmental footprint. And it shouldn’t require permission.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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