The Urban Chicken Debate Continues
The St. Louis Post Dispatch covers both sides of the urban chicken controversy in this article. In the paragraphs that deal with complaints about unwanted chickens, you could replace the word “chicken” with the name of any other pet. When you allow people to keep animals, some owners will be irresponsible and some will abandon their pets. This is no more reason to outlaw urban chickens than the glut of chihuahuas in California animal shelters is reason to forbid chihuahua ownership.
Unwanted chickens will be kept to a minimum if the birds go to people who seek them out of their own volition. Foisting chickens on reluctant citizens will result in abandoned animals. With that in mind, I’m not in favor of the Maplewood-Richmond Heights School District’s plan to encourage chicken ownership. The district has a goal of convincing 50 families to keep chickens. I’m afraid that if it offers too much encouragement, people who aren’t so excited about chickens are going to give in and adopt them, only to abandon them later. A better goal would be to provide information about chickens to anyone who’s interested, without setting a lower bound for the number of chicken owners.
The district’s on-site chicken coop is a good idea; children can learn a lot about animal life cycles from watching chickens. When I was in elementary school, individual classrooms raised chicks. Building one coop for the whole school might allow for more efficient maintenance, and classes could come one at a time to observe the birds. It also could be more practical to keep chickens on a permanent basis than to order new chicks each year and give them away when school’s out.