literature on urban hen benefits?

Discussion in 'Local Chicken Laws & Ordinances' started by UCD student, Sep 2, 2009.

  1. UCD student

    UCD student Hatching

    Sep 2, 2009
    Hello Everyone,

    I am a student getting my Masters of Public Administration. I am working on a project for the city of Denver that will evaluate the current regulations regarding chickens and goats and how they can be changed to make ownership more accessible.

    Currently I am looking for scholarly literature that supports the benefits of owning chickens and other food producing animals. I am looking for articles that describe benefits, like hormone-free eggs, reduction in energy for transportation, reduction in packaging waste, etc. Does anyone have any suggestions of where I could find literature like this?

    I would also like to find literature that describes how neighbor conflict can be reduced. If you know of anything, please pass it on to me.


  2. Lady Henevere

    Lady Henevere Songster

    Mar 30, 2009
    Los Angeles County
    Hi, Susan, and welcome. I don't know of anything very scholarly, but there are some interesting issues out there regarding owning chickens that go beyond the idea of chickens as simply a source of eggs or meat, and you may want to consider those issues as well. For example, some literature discusses how chickens can work into overall food-producing landscape designs by tilling the soil through scratching/digging, eating pests, etc. Chickens also contribute nitrogen-rich waste that can be composted and used to fertilize vegetable gardens (which partly goes back into feeding the chickens, etc.). So going beyond the idea that chickens are simply a food-producing animal that can reduce waste versus buying commercially-grown eggs, you may want to explore the bigger picture about how chickens can be a useful part of an entire self-sustaining home food production system (which is better for the environment due to reduced transportation, less chemical fertilizer, etc.). If you want to know more about this, look at books about permaculture, such as Gaia's Garden (sorry, I don't remember the author at the moment). I'm sure there are scholarly works on the issue, and using the search term "permaculture" may bring something up. "Chicken tractors" (movable, bottomless coops) are also used to move chickens around so they can do some pest control and leave behind fertilizer; I'm sure I have seen scholarly literature on how these work. Also try searching "animals in agroforestry," which might be a little more geared toward commercial farming.

    As for neighbor conflict, chickens are birds. There's no real reason (that I have ever come across) to regulate them any differently than any other pet. A city dweller can put a macaw or parrot out on a balcony and it can squawk all day and no one cares, but bring up the idea that chickens may be living next door and people freak out. Any solution to neighbor conflict should ideally address the nuisance (if there is one -- noise, smell, etc.) rather than the idea (prejudice?) that chickens belong in a barnyard rather than a backyard. (One caveat: I suggest banning roosters in densely populated areas for noise control. Roosters are LOUD.)

    I can't really speak to the idea of goat ownership in a city; I believe they tend to be pretty destructive on fencing, but I don't have any personal experience with the issue. (Maybe ask over at -- see the link at the bottom of the page.)

    Anyway, there's my two cents -- I hope it helps. Best of luck with your degree and the project!
  3. Stealth Squabs

    Stealth Squabs Chirping

    Sep 28, 2009
    Hi Susan![​IMG]
    I've been looking around the backyard chicken raising idea most of the summer. I think it's wonderful to be more self sufficient and to take a big part in where the food on the table comes from. Right now I would starve living out of my back yard, but the gardens will be expanded and I may add chickens and rabbits to the menu!

    The article I found was in Mother Earth News. It was in their Wiser Living Series, Guide to Living on Less and Loving It! The date on the front was summer 2009. The article may be archived at (their chicken and egg page)

    The article is titled, "How do your eggs stack up?" It discusses the different types of chicken raising methods, how to decode egg cartons (cage free, free range, free roaming, certified humane, certified organic, and omega 3), but is essentially a bid for the better flavor and nutrition of eggs NOT being from the big egg farms, but from the chickens "living closer to the garden".

    The article also gives several coop designs, suggestions for starting a flock, feed prices and various chicken owner benefits.
    Good luck with your work and hope this helps!
  4. Mother Earth News published a report regarding the laboratory results of backyard hen's eggs, very good news.

    4-H has poultry publications with projects outlining benefits of backyard hens.

    The USDA published a Biosecurity pamphlet 5/2004 regarding at-home protocol for protecting backyard flocks from avian disease transmission.

    only means of protecting backyard flocks from "neighbor conflict" is law, just like all other neighbor conflict. Civil rights are protected with laws outlined in city and municipal code. Enforcing the law seems to be lacking in some places. Madison, WI published a video titled Mad City Chickens which showed the council session voting on the city code for backyard flocks.

    Good luck in your studies!

  5. RedStarDaddy

    RedStarDaddy Chirping

    Aug 18, 2009
    "Hormone-free" is pretty much a non-starter, Susan. The poultry houses get eggs on a clockwork basis by genetic selection and environmental manipulation. There was a brief fad, according to Plandomon, in the late 40s and early 50s for hormones to boost production but by the time it was outlawed nobody was using it because, simply, it didn't work. Anybody that uses hormone-free as a selling point is using scare tactics, not reality.

    Energy reduction is an interesting avenue of investigation. Is a battery or cage-free commercial operation better than a neighborhood where every house has two or three pullets? I don't know. There would be fuel expended not only in bringing the eggs to market but also in bringing chicks and feed to the commercial operation and to the household and in removing spent layers from the commercial operation. Which one is better? The commercial operation also has the chicken waste to dispose of, while the household chicken's waste either goes into the ground to become organic fertilizer on the spot or goes onto the compost heap where it becomes part of the compost.

    I don't know how you're going to quantify the intangibles that led me, personally, to keeping my chickens. First, my chickens are chickens. They scratch, flap, sun, dust bathe, squabble, run, and fly like chickens have for millennia. They eat bugs, weeds, grass, poke sallet leaves, and anything else they can get their beaks onto, including layer crumbles and three or four handfuls of scratch in the evening. They don't live in a battery cage with no room to stretch and no way to scratch nor do they live in a big barn with several thousand of their peers and no way to get a little solitude or to explore something they haven't seen in a week. I am an animal-welfare guy, not an animal-rights guy; as such, the notion of battery cages makes me more than a little uneasy. My dozen layers means I don't support industrial eggs and my layers aren't in that system. The eggs are an order of magnitude better than anything I have ever gotten at a grocery store too, in that the yolks are a deep orange and are firm, the yolk is well supported by the white, and they taste like egg. Compare and contrast that to the grocery store egg with its pale yellow-white yolk, the watery albumin that doesn't support the yolk, and their stultifying insipid blandness.

    I'd be a poorer man, I think, if I had never kept chickens.

    I cannot speak to neighbor conflict primarily because I am in an agricultural area. The guy across the road has horses, while the guy down the road keeps cattle.

  6. UCD student

    UCD student Hatching

    Sep 2, 2009
    Thanks for those great ideas! I'll look into getting those publications.


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