As with many neighborhoods, mine is governed by a set of covenants. For example, it is codified that residents may not keep livestock in my neighborhood. It’s not something I’ve really given much thought to, save the brief, passing desire to raise a small herd of bison on my 1/3 acre lot. When I found out about the no livestock bylaw I thought, “Well, that sorta blows,” but then I realized afterward that my neighborhood association had saved me from my ill-conceived plan. As much as I enjoy the challenge of a new project, I have no business whatsoever being a bison farmer.
In general, I hear very little out of the neighborhood association. Ours is an older development with wooded lots. The yards aren’t immaculately manicured, and in the summer, we can barely see our neighbors through the trees. We’re on an emailing list that mainly exists to let everyone know that the annual neighborhood yard sale is back on this year (yippee!) and that it’s time for the bi-annual brush pickup. Occasionally, there’s a photograph of a dodgy looking mutt accompanied by an email query wondering if the dog is a stray or simply a clever little Houdini.
Last week, there was another of these stray dog alerts. What made that email different was a short postscript at the end. “On another note,” it said, “what do the good people of Polks Landing think about allowing residents to raise chickens in their back yards?” And then, as they say, it was on.
I’ve been living in this neighborhood for more than five years now, and I can safely say that the chicken debate has been the most impassioned in that time. By a long shot. There’s not even a contender.
Comments have ranged from the simple, straightforward, “I’m in favor of backyard chickens,” to a resident wondering, “What the hell is wrong with you people? Are times so bad you can’t afford to go buy a decent meal?” One neighbor noted that her opinion would be based on what people intended to do with their chickens. “A few eggs would be fine,” she wrote, “but the idea of people slaughtering chickens in my neighborhood is deplorable.” This hastily written electronic two-cents was quickly refuted with an essay espousing the nobility of killing a chicken with one’s own hands. People wondered about disease, quickly being challenged by neighbors who accused humans of being the dirtiest, most disease-ridden creatures in the neighborhood. Others were concerned about the noise, but one creative thinker quickly solved that problem by suggesting that the new code include wording that allowed hens while prohibiting roosters.
*Best bourbon to drink while conteplating a new neighborhood covenant on backyard chicken farming: Wild Turkey.*
**Quotes from my neighbors are paraphrased.