Some Providence residents have expressed legitimate concerns about the consequences of allowing people to raise chickens in their yards. We have volunteered to serve as a community resource on this subject, and we are committed to educating local residents about responsible chicken-rearing. With that in mind, we offer this information to guide people in making choices that are good for both the animals and the neighbors.
Finally, here are some facts about chickens that will hopefully put a few common misconceptions to roost.
Myth: Chickens make noise.
Fact: While it’s true that roosters crow, hens are actually very quiet animals. They do not squawk unless they are afraid, and they go to sleep at night just like other household pets.
Myth: Chickens are dirty and spread disease.
Fact: This fear is understandable given recent headlines about eggs contaminated with salmonella in the media. However, it is important to remember that those eggs came from an industrial-scale chicken farm. Confined animal feeding operations are much more likely to harbor diseases because they pack a large number of animals into a tight space (one that is often devoid of sunlight or grass). Home-raised eggs, on the other hand, are less likely to contain hazardous bacteria because individual backyard chicken coops with a limited number of hens are more protected from the spread of illness. Backyard chickens do not have to be dosed with antibiotics or synthetic hormones, and their eggs have also been shown to be naturally richer in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E than those from industrial settings.
Myth: Chickens don't do well outside of rural areas.
Fact: In reality, more than 65 percent of major U.S. cities, including Portland, New York, Seattle, Denver, Madison, Baltimore, and New Haven have chicken-keeping ordinances on the books.
Myth: Chickens take up a lot of space and consume valuable resources.
Fact: Actually, chickens need surprisingly little room. Poultry associations designate that chickens require only 3 square feet of ranging area per bird. The initial cost of setting up a small coop and pen can be as low as $100, and hens cost very little to feed, especially if their diet is supplemented with weeds, grass clippings, bugs, and kitchen scraps.
Myth: Chicken waste is bad for the soil.
Fact: On the contrary! Chicken droppings are extremely high in nitrogen, an important nutrient for plant growth. They can even be added to compost, reducing the need to purchase chemical fertilizers for the lawn and garden.
Myth: Chickens attract pests and predators.
Fact: In point of fact, chickens are an excellent form of pest control. They will dine on cockroaches, tomato horn worms, aphids, grubs, and other unwanted insects. They will even eat small mice. And the presence of chickens does not attract predators any more than does the presence of other domestic animals such as rabbits and cats.