Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet 4-18-11 |

Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet 4-18-11

The city council of Rapid City, S.D., has spent several weeks discussing whether city residents should be allowed to own and keep chickens in their yards. It’s been great fun to listen to the heated discussions.

The initial ordinance would have allowed up to six hens – no roosters – in one yard. It became apparent in the discussions that there is a discrepancy in understanding about the birds and bees between city and country residents. The comments included the hens couldn’t lay eggs without roosters being involved; the chicken manure from six chickens would certainly take the place of all other fertilizer needs in their yards and wondering if their dogs would harass the chickens.

Another comment was that the produced eggs would be free. It might seem so, but after an initial outlay of the baby chicks, a chicken house, a fenced chicken yard, waterers and feeders, and the feed itself, reality would set in. When starting with baby chicks, it takes a good six months for the first eggs to be laid. Not every hen will lay an egg daily and there are dry spells with no eggs laid during molting. Unless the chickens are in a warm climate, the waterers will freeze unless heated.

Can you imagine the headache of trying to regulate the coops? The city would have to hire more regulators as they have enough to do with making sure houses and other buildings are in compliance with the laws. Apparently the ideal chicken coop, at least in one man’s eyes, would be constructed of leftover scraps of wood, shingles and dismantled wooden boxes. Sounds like it would be really attractive from the neighbor’s window.

Quotes that came out during the conversations included, “Hens produce eggs which are proven to be much healthier than store bought eggs.” (I wonder where they heard that?) 

The chickens would be fun to observe and certainly, if the right feed is used, the eggs do taste better.

City dwellers pointed out that chickens eat grasshoppers, fleas and ticks as a regular staple of their diet, but the chicken supporter failed to mention chickens also carry fleas. Another gal talked about what wonderful pets chickens would make though she didn’t say if she’d like to cuddle with one.

Comments based in common sense on why chickens should be allowed abounded, such as the ones who would rather have a few quietly clucking chickens at their neighbors than a loud, barking dog. At least the hens are generally quiet at night, but the dogs aren’t.

Fort Collins and Longmont, Colo., allow chickens with varying rules. Denver, Colo., is looking at the prospect and even goats are including in the possibilities for backyard livestock.

As long as individuals realize the chickens need frequent care and there is expense involved, why not give it a go? When the fun of raising chickens is over, it would be easy to get out of it … fried chicken is a treat.


Peggy writes from her chicken-less farm in southwestern South Dakota. Her Internet latchstring is out at

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