ATLANTA ó A
sign on the fence in Anne-Marie Andersonís Decatur, Ga., home reads:
"Beware of Chickens." Walk in and Andersonís 18 birds roam
freely, digging among the fallen leaves. They squawk and flap their
wings to cross a stream. Glenda, one of the bigger chickens, waddles
straight through the water.
chick-chicks," Anderson clucks in a British accent, doling out
very nice to hang out with a cup of coffee and watch the chickens
running around clucking. They exude general contentment."
Anderson and her
family are among the growing number of city dwellers nationwide who
keep chickens in their backyards.
In Atlanta, more
than 2,000 "backyard poultry buffs" have joined the cityís
Backyard Poultry Meetup, a group that plans monthly meetings for
conversations with "eggsperts."
Whether it is
for their childrenís enjoyment or for a healthier food source, more
and more urbanites have decided to color their backyards with the wild
feathers of their winged pets, causing many cities to rework their
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Ga., boasts its own Backyard Chicken Alliance.
Alpharetta, Ga., have adjusted laws to allow for backyard chickens.
Cobb loosened its restrictions in February, allowing the fowl on lots
less than two acres, the former minimum needed, if owners apply for
coming up at pretty much every town and city across America,"
says Patricia Foreman, author of the book "City Chicks."
"What is becoming evident Ö is that they do add a lot to the
urban landscape." People have discovered the chickenís role as
a backyard employee, Foreman says.
"A lot of
people are turning to their backyards and saying, ĎYou know, we arenít
lacking land to grow food in,í" Foreman says. "We are
lacking a different paradigm. We need a new vision of how to produce
bio-mass recyclers, insect controllers, food suppliers, fertilizer
producers and, Foreman adds, blood pressure reducers.
get chickens. Then, you fall in love. And then, you learn how to
employ them," Foreman says. "They truly are pets with
benefits." Joey Zeigler, founder of Zeiglar Homestead Services, a
company that helps transforms backyards into "productive and
sustainable homesteads," calls home-grown chicken eggs "real
just more vibrant and I would say dense with flavor and very
genuine," he says. "You can taste that immediacy in it, the
intimacy. You can taste your own blood and sweat in there a little
bit. And it tastes better."
the "Georgia Gardener" and one of the most respected
regional garden gurus, believes that rural living remains in Atlantaís
blood. Chickens are related to that "psychological
South, we are not that far removed from a rural agrarian side,"
Reeves says. "A lot of people in Atlanta remember the comfort of
being on the farm."
Not all agree.
Ordinances across metro Atlanta limit the number of chickens one can
own. Some counties, such as Gwinnett, Ga., require a minimum of three
acres for chicken owners.
realize Ö two or three chickens are good to have. I canít have
40," says Bradford Townsend, planning and zoning director for the
city of Roswell, Ga. "I think there has been a realization (that)
you have got to maintain the proper numbers."
The problem sits
with those few owners who start out with two chickens and end up with
a big flock, Townsend says.
are getting little chicks for their kids to raise really have no clue
what they are getting into," he says.
Back in Decatur,
Anderson thinks it is outrageous that the city would try to prevent
people from living more sustainably. To better glorify the backyard
chicken movement, she backs events like the "Urban Coop
Tour" and "Chicks in the City." Though she tries not to
be the "mad chicken lady," it is quite obvious: She loves
her chickens and she is in good company.
are simple, very straightforward," Anderson says. "Why
wouldnít someone own them?" Check with your city or county
planning and zoning office for restrictions on keeping backyard