You Can Keep Chickens in New York But Not in Grand Rapids?


It seems odd. In a state like Michigan–the second most agriculturally diverse state in the nation–Grand Rapids city residents are prohibited to raise chickens in their yards, but New Yorkers can do it? Other cities in Michigan such as Ann Arbor, Detroit, and Kalamazoo allow it, too. It seems the decision against Grand Rapids chickens may have been influenced by an epidsode of the show “Dirty Jobs” in which the city of Miami is overrun with feral chickens.

Another reason, according to First Ward Commissioner Walt Gutowski Jr., is that 95 percent of his constituents are opposed to the chicken ordinance. “They just don’t want them,” he said in a Grand Rapids Press article. “Secondly, their concern is enforcement. Most city residents who have chickens now are not conforming to the proposed ordinance language.”

New York, on the other hand–from Brooklyn backyards to schools in the South Bronx–supports the urban chicken trend. There’s not even a cap on the number of chickens you can keep, as long as you don’t have a rooster. Check out this Huffington Post video full of urban chicken stories.

An organization called Just Food has been connecting local farms to New York City neighborhoods and communities since 1995. Their mission is to unite local farms and city residents of all economic backgrounds with fresh, seasonal, sustainably grown food. Through the City Chicken Project, Just Food works with experienced chicken keepers in New York City to create model projects from which gardeners can learn how to keep happy, healthy, and productive chickens. The even have a City Chicken Guide.

Edible Manhattan, which is currently promoting the upcoming Eat Drink Local Week in New York City (September 26 through October 7), calls them “walking, bawking little composters.” That’s because “each chicken can divert 84 pounds from the waste stream every year,” according to Edible Brooklyn. “If just 10 percent of the 930,000 New Yorkers with access to backyards kept three chickens (the minimum suggested flock size) for a year, that works out to almost 12 tons of organic waste that went from landfill to lunch, with the capacity to save the city over $11 million. You’re also cutting down on the greenhouse emissions associated with refrigerated transit and storage, especially when you take into account that a fresh, unwashed egg can sit safely on your counter for days.”

So, Grand Rapids, how about a change of heart?

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