Friday, June 8, 2012

Urban Chickens- Supporting the Urban Agricultural Movement

We are still waiting to be heard by the West Warwick Town Council in hopes that we can change the local chicken ordinance, to allow hens in our town for the purpose of providing fresh eggs.


The following is a fact sheet that I customized for the West Warwick Urban Chicken Campaign.


I would like to thank the following people/organizations who have thus far given their support:


  • Christine Chitnis- from whom the fact sheet below originated
  • John Engelhorn, colleague, friend, fellow West Warwick resident, Assistant Director of Campus Dining Johnson & Wales University
  • Kenneth D. Ayars, Chief, Division of Agriculture, RIDEM
  • Kathryn Teigen De Master, Ph.D., Visiting Assistant Professor, Center for Environmental Studies, Brown University
  • Farm Fresh RI
  • edible Rhody magazine
  • Mark Bourget, Councilman Ward 5, West Warwick, RI.



URBAN CHICKENS:


S U P P O R T I N G T H E U R B A N A G R I C U L T U R A L


M O V E M E N T I N W E S T W A R W I C K




Why Urban Chickens?
As people grow more concerned about the economy, the environment, and food safety, there is a growing interest in vegetable gardening, canning food, and raising chickens. Adding urban chicken-keeping to this growth in local food would continue to establish West Warwick as a leader in the local food movement. More than 65% of major U.S. cities including Portland, Denver, Madison, Baltimore, and New Haven have chicken keeping ordinances. Now is the time for West Warwick to pass a chicken-keeping ordinance and build on the strength of its local food system.







Sustainability
It is estimated that the average American meal travels about 1500 miles to get from farm to plate. By increasing production of local food and keeping a small number of egg-laying hens, West Warwick residents can reduce their consumption of resources, use fewer pesticides on lawns and in gardens, and also be more self-reliant. In addition to these environmental benefits, homegrown eggs are also known to contain more nutrients and are less likely to contain hazardous bacteria. Hens provide a high nutrient fertilizer that is easily composted and offer a natural form of pest control.

Economic FactorsA readily available source of eggs would save money, energy, and time for West Warwick families. The initial cost of a small chicken coop and pen can be as little as $100. Hens cost very little to feed, especially if their diet is supplemented with weeds, grass clippings, bugs, and kitchen and garden scraps. A single hen lays around five eggs a week, or over 20 dozen eggs per year! At West Warwick farmers markets, fresh, locally produced eggs cost nearly $5 a dozen. Families raising their own hens will save close to $100 per chicken per year. Chickens can also save families additional money by reducing fertilizer and pesticide use.

Educational Opportunities
Several educational opportunities are available to Rhode Island residents dedicated to raising hens in the state. Since 1981, the Southside Community Land Trust (SCLT) has partnered with Rhode Islanders to improve residents health and welfare by helping them grow food. SCLT is committed to educating city residents on responsible and economical chicken-raising. SCLT has offered to serve as a community resource to help answer chicken keeping questions, and provide free public workshops on raising urban chickens.  The Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA) also offers Backyard Chicken Workshops throughout the year and at their annual summer conference.

Why West Warwick?
The unemployment rate in Rhode Island is at a record high, but food prices continue to rise, consuming a significant percentage of family budgets. The Rhode Island Food Bank reports that the prevalence of hunger in Rhode Island has reached the highest level in ten years. As the increased costs of food continue to hit West Warwick residents, efforts are urgently needed to increase both the affordability and availability of low-cost, local food. Enabling town residents to produce fresh eggs in their backyards increases access to healthy, affordable food, enhances sustainable environmental stewardship, and contributes to household economic resilience.


Benefits of Urban Chickens:


Local Source of Protein:  One egg provide 5.5 grams of protein, or 11% of the daily value for protein.
Better Quality:  Home-raised eggs tend to be naturally richer in many nutrients, including omega 3 fats and vitamin E, compared to chickens raised in industrial farm settings.  Also, there is no need to worry about food safety, antibiotics, or hormones.
Source of Fertilizer:  Chicken poop is high in nitrogen and, when added to compost, provides a rich food source for indoor and outdoor plants.
Natural Pest Control:  Chickens are great at controlling cockroaches, tomato horn worms, aphids, grubs, and many other unwanted insects.  Chickens will also eat small mice.


COMMON MYTHS ABOUT CHICKENS
They are noisy -- hens are one of the quietest domestic animals. Unless they are in danger, they do not squawk. They sleep at night just like most household pets, and are completely quiet from dusk to dawn.
They are dirty -- Chickens are very clean animals. They will occasionally give themselves “dirt bathsbut this is actually in order for them to preen their feathers and keep themselves clean and cool.
They attract predators --Chickens do not attract predators any more than cats, rabbits, dogs and other pets.
They carry disease -- Diseases are much more likely to be harbored in confined animal feeding operations due to their sheer size and tight conditions than in a healthy backyard setting.
They need a lot of space -- Free range chickens need very little space. Most poultry associations designate that chickens need about 3 square feet of ranging area.



Until I Blog Again:  Eat Well, Live Life, Be Safe, and go raise some chickens


45FWZESBZDER