Should Cities Allow Backyard Chickens?

By: Dave Byknish Email
By: Dave Byknish Email

STAUNTON, Va - After World War II, we entered a new age, where convenience was king. Keeping animals for food was pretty much outlawed within city limits, but now some feel these rules goes against the very nature of living in a community.

“The idea of having people connected to their food supply has been something centuries old,” said Daniel Salatin, a farm manager at Polyface Farms. “Having the butcher, baker, candlestick maker embedded into the community has been something that's been normal until the industrial revolution.”

In Augusta County, backyard chickens are allowed, but in Staunton it is against the law. Now, times are changing.

“There are a lot of cities, municipalities that don't allow it at all, but there seems to be kind of a burgeoning movement of cities that are realizing it's not a very invasive thing. It's not loud, it's not smelly,” said another worker at Polyface Farms, Noah Beyler.

Experts argue that those problems can be avoided with intelligent and proper cooping. It is disease, though, that has some Staunton City officials worried. Virginia is home to an $800-million poultry industry. One devastating bird flu outbreak, with our unique proximity to industry hot spots, could crush the local economy.

“Nature and creation have an incredible way of sanitizing themselves and the animals are perfectly able to do that,” said Salatin. “The fear of the disease and the bird flu and all that only comes when they're left in stationary confinement for a long period of time.”

Officials cite the need for responsible owners if the laws were to be changed. Chicken advocates said it is the need for healthy living that will keep the owner's on task.

“The idea of not being connected to your food supply, and what you put into your body, as much as we are today, is completely unnormal.”

In other cities in the Valley, chickens are allowed under certain circumstances.

In Harrisonburg, people can have no more than four chickens in a single-family house and have to live on at least two acres of land. Roosters are not allowed and those hens cannot be for commercial use like selling eggs or chicks.

Hens and not roosters are also allowed in Waynesboro. The birds have to be kept in a confined area so they cannot get on other neighbors' property.

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