Last night the hometown social media had another hot conversation. So in the spirit of my Quest for Transparency and since that Transparency goes both ways, I am writing this letter. It seems that people on social media figured out that my husband has chickens in our backyard. I’m throwing him under the bus. He has backyard chickens. And it seems there in an ordinance against that.
Now you would think that the referendum for the new school agricultural building, the two working farms in our district, the local 4H club, the new pheasant exhibit at Bruemmer Park Zoo, as well as all those county kids raising prize chickens for the Kewaunee County Fair would suggest Kewaunee is an ag friendly town. But I guess not. It’s OK for little Timmy to spend the day on Instagram. But if he tries to raise a chicken for his 4H club or school project, that’s something some folks just can’t live with. Sorry little Timmy—go do something wholesome like Fort Nite, Call of Duty or WarZone. There are no ordinances against that.
And what of our new Tractor Supply store, which would normally sell live chicks every year as well as chick food, water and food dispensers and coops? Are people going to ask for an ordinance change to support Tractor Supply?
It seems we are raising our children to just look at farms, but not know how they work. How many of our children have held a day old chick or even ridden a horse? I’m guessing not many.
But getting back to my husband’s chickens. He spent a week in the hospital with West Nile Virus recently. And our dog came in with ticks and soon after developed Lyme disease. As the gardener in the house, he is more exposed to ticks than I am. He first tried to handle the situation with TruGreen. They spent a year spraying our lawn, the deer continued to come back and we had ticks again. Because we have almost an acre backed up to wooded park, we have deer in our yard at least once a month.
So instead of more chemicals, he went online to see if there was some other way to handle ticks with Lyme disease. There are other options other than turning our backyard into a toxic superfund site. Guinea fowl and peacocks eat as many as a thousand ticks a day. But they also shriek like a lady who drops a #10 can of beans on her toe. The neighbors would not like that very much. And we have wonderful neighbors. But almost as good as peacocks, are chickens. A grown chicken can eat as many as 300 ticks a day—and that’s what his chickens are doing. They scatter under every bush and all over the lawn, eating spiders, June bugs, ants and ticks. We have rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks peacefully coexisting with the chickens.
So getting back to to last night. While we were watching TV, my phone and email started buzzing wildly. Mostly it was my friends and neighbors saying that if I needed a place to put the chickens, send them their way. I was touched. So many people eager to help. I have the greatest friends and neighbors. I can’t express my gratitude enough for all the offers and words of support.
The reality is, if the city says my husband is allowed to have ticks with Lyme disease in our backyard, but he can’t have chickens to eat the ticks, I guess he will have to get rid of them. Our Border Collie will be so sad. Her unique herding skills were becoming valuable every day in keeping the chickens on the property. Since most of my neighbors are old enough to have grown up with chickens, they were quite lovely and supportive. To them, chickens are like lava lamps. You can just sit and watch them for hours.
It’s funny—chickens have become all the rage in big cities and suburbs. Many have recently changed their laws and ordinances to allow chickens, albeit with restrictions. No roosters, limited numbers, amongst other things. Urban gardeners especially like the way they keep bugs off their vegetable gardens. They are the real organic pesticide. And they do fertilize the yard as well. Many of us have ten pound cats and 50 pound dogs. Chickens are just 3-6 pounds each. And let’s face it, my backyard has over 100 bird landings a day with geese, ducks, hawks, bald eagles, sparrows, robins, starlings, turkeys, blue jays, crows, kestrels, humming birds, woodpeckers, orioles, cardinals, morning doves and many, many other birds that I see virtually every singe day in my backyard. Three sets of mallard ducks set up nests in our backyard and the yards of my adjoining neighbors this year. Chickens are like the janitorial staff cleaning up the bugs after the other birds leave.
I’m not sure how all of this will turn out, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at the many positive comments I’ve received. But it does give folks something to think about and certainly is food for thought for our future.
Thanks for listening,