Arnold keeps nine hens and a couple of roosters in
a pen behind her south Kansas City, Missouri home.
She says the chickens are just like pets and like
to be held.
CITY, Mo. — As the urban chicken fad grows up, so do
that has become a snag for some urban farmers who jumped
on the bandwagon for their own supply of fresh eggs:
Most hens lay eggs regularly for only two or three
what happens to those urban chickens that have become
almost part of the family once they’re past their
prime laying years?
some get eaten. But others get traded to other farmers,
who may end up doing the eating.
cannot eat anything that I’ve made eye contact
with," said Teresa Kelly, a Roeland Park, Kan.,
council member who advocated for an ordinance allowing
backyard chickens in her city almost three years ago.
"I wouldn’t dream of eating one of my own
some chickens hang around as pets.
fact, Susie Arnold says they make great pets.
raises chickens in her backyard in southeastern Kansas
City, Mo., and chickens have been part of her life since
she was a little girl raising them with her parents in
even brings her hens to her weeklong summer school
class, "Are You Chicken?" at Pembroke Hill
School. The half-day class introduces chickens to
kindergarten and first-grade students.
do have personalities like all animals do," Arnold
chickens are smart pets, and some, well, not so much.
But that’s just like cats, dogs or other more typical
pets, said Katie Nixon, a small-farms specialist with
Lincoln University’s Cooperative Extension program.
She has even seen chickens that come when you call their
depends on the chicken, but they can be quite good
pets," Nixon said.
said she has considered her hens as pets, too. She still
has pictures of her sons holding their barred rock hen,
Phat, who was one of her first chickens. After Phat
died, Kelly and her family put some of Phat’s feathers
in a glass Christmas ornament with a little red ribbon.
still have Phat feathers on our Christmas tree every
year," she said, laughing.
rules govern backyard hens in different areas, and some
municipalities don’t allow them at all.
on Thursday night, the Lee’s Summit, Mo., City Council
narrowly approved a revised ordinance that will allow
residents to house six hens 10 feet from a property line
and 40 feet from another structure.
Roeland Park, urban farmers can have six hens after
applying for a $100 special use permit. In Kansas City,
the ordinance allows up to 15 chickens, but they must be
housed 100 feet from any other properties. But in many
cities you can’t (legally) keep chickens at all.
the trend is growing. And in some spots around the
country, animal shelters are dealing with more chickens
that people either don’t want or can no longer care
for. But local shelters, like the KC Pet Project and the
Great Plains SPCA, haven’t seen an increase in the
number of hens they’re asked to place in new homes.
you’re going to get any animals, it doesn’t matter
if it’s a goldfish, you have a responsibility to take
care of it," said Sheri McNeil, a Roeland Park
council member and chicken owner.
chickens were the original spark behind creating Roeland
Park’s chicken ordinance. Since it passed, McNeil and
Kelly have worked with City Hens in Roeland Park, or
CHIRP, to educate residents interested in raising hens.
their experience, the folks who are raising chickens
know what they’re getting themselves into.
aren’t being impulsive about getting chickens,"
Kelly said. "They’re being practical and thinking
through the responsibility."
includes taking care of sick or injured chickens, and
that’s where avian veterinarian Julie Burge comes in.
works with exotic birds, but she has recently taken on
treating local chickens. Ten years ago, her office and
rescue would get almost no chicken-related calls, and it
wasn’t unheard of to go a year without seeing a single
chicken. Now Burge gets a couple of chicken-related
calls a month, she said.
as the backyard hens fad grows up, she thinks she’ll
be seeing more and more poultry patients.
me a couple years from now, and I’ll probably be
running a new chicken adoption service," she said.