by Laurel Hopwood, NEO Agriculture Co-Chair
Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman understands that urban farming
is a growing trend. He listened to requests from numerous people
and groups (including NEO Sierra Club) urging him to introduce
an ordinance to allow egg-laying hens to be raised in Cleveland.
He introduced ordinance number 347.02 (restrictions on the keeping
of farm animals and bees) and after a year of activism, it passed.
This ordinance allows residents to keep chickens, ducks, rabbits,
and beehives. A typical residential lot could have no more than
six small animals and two hives. The Cleveland ordinance specifies
that all animals shall be provided with a covered, predator-proof
coop or cage or other shelter that is thoroughly ventilated, designed
to be easily accessed and cleaned, and of sufficient size to permit
free movement of the animals. Chickens and other birds shall have
access to an outdoor uncovered enclosure which is adequately fenced
to prevent access by predators. Animals may not be kept in front
yards. Anyone keeping farm animals or bees will have to register
with Cleveland's Health Department for a license.
During the first and second world wars, the government encouraged
urban farming by way of backyard Victory Gardens to help lessen
the pressure on the public food supply. It's a win-win situation
for all. Families can count on the food supply, can eat food that's
affordable, and can eat safe, nutritious, unadulterated food. As
more and more people learn about how food is connected to oil and
transportation, they are bound to realize they can get a higher
quality product cheaper if they get it locally.
This ordinance protects the natural environment by helping to
keep food sources local. Global warming is hastened from the raising
of livestock in factories, as non-renewable fossil fuels are used
to move the animal from factory to plate. Wildlife are harmed as
toxic chemicals, used to grow chicken feed, end up in waterways.
The ordinance also protects public health by helping to keep
food sources organic. Most chickens, both boiler chickens and egg-laying
hens, are raised in confined, crowded conditions which are a breeding
ground for bacteria. These factory-raised animals receive a daily
dose of antibiotics in their feed to promote rapid growth. Important
antibiotics used for treating human illnesses are becoming ineffective.
This "chicken-and-bees" legislation, as it became nicknamed,
is also an innovative way to use vacant lots. Some people are leasing
property covered with asphalt for only one dollar per year and
turning it into space to raise food!
Raising chickens is already part of the social fabric in numerous
cities across the United States. Web sites such as TheCityChicken.com,
UrbanChickens.org, MadCityChickens.com, and BackyardChickens.com provide education and a venue for egg farmers to share ideas.
For those worried about backyard chickens harboring the dangerous
bird flu, rest assured that small-scale poultry farming is
the solution, not the problem. The Pew Commission on Industrial
Animal Production said that if we see it, it'll be more likely
to be found in factory farmed poultry than backyard chickens.
Here's another win-win... the chicken manure, which is a high-quality
fertilizer, can be recycled and used on urban gardens.
Besides all that, chickens are fun. They have a lot of personality.
And they love being cuddled. Concerned about noise? Certainly
fossil fuel driven lawn mowers and leaf blowers are more
of a nuisance
than some backyard clucking.