Friday, September 24, 2010

Chicken Coup

A chicken controversy has hatched in Califon.

Some residents have taken to keeping chickens in their yards, and their neighbors are getting their feathers ruffled about it.

It seems that one family blew the whistle on their chicken keeping neighbors. Both parties and their supporters showed up at a town council meeting to make their cases. The anti-poultry crowd pointed out that the borough has an ordinance against keeping farm animals on town-size lots.

The pro-poultry group countered that the chickens were pets, not farm animals, and held that the ordinance should be changed, since many people in town keep chickens. The difference between a farm animal and a pet is that one you get to kill and eat, and the other you get to spend a fortune on at the vet to keep alive.

We had a rabbit once, which I guess counts as a pet farm animal. I hated the damn thing. All it did was eat and shit, which, come to think of it, is pretty much the story of me since retirement.

The mayor, upon advice from the borough attorney, had to recuse himself from the discussion because, lo and behold, he also keeps chickens. The council passed the matter along to the Planning Board to consider changing the ordinance.

At the Planning Board meeting the pro-poultry group presented a petition signed by 83 residents in favor of revising the ordinances to permit chickens. One proponent said that backyard egg farming was “sweeping the nation.” Kathie and I missed this memo. We are still working on the one that said eggs are bad for you.

They came armed with facts, such as the sound of chickens does not travel beyond ten feet, and backyard chicken keeping doesn’t affect property values. One supporter quoted a study, probably funded by the Economic Recovery Act, that found that five chickens generate less waste in a day than one medium sized dog. Our rabbit, on the other hand, could shit like a damned St. Bernard.

Another pro-position is that chicken keeping is a “great way to teach children to grow something and get something back from it.” I think a tomato plant would accomplish the same thing, but agree that it puts the young ones closer to the food chain: “Hey kids,chicken for dinner! Go throttle Cluckie!”

I like chickens and do think they teach valuable life lessons like don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If the boys at Lehman Brothers had learned that one, my IRA wouldn’t look like a plucked hen.

The anti-position is pretty much the old slippery slope argument: If you allow chickens, what next? …oxen? Another concern is that if people are allowed to break the farm animal ordinance and are then rewarded by having the ordinance changed, that would set a precedent and encourage residents to break any borough law they disliked, something Califon citizens have been happily doing for over 100 years.

According to the antis, chickens also attract predators. I know this is true because a friend of mine once saw a German porno film of a man having non-consensual sex with a chicken.

All hands, however, agree that the number of chickens should be limited and that roosters should not be permitted.

If the chickens get too numerous they can always hold an event like the one we had some years back. The mayor at the time decided there were too many ducks on the river and scheduled a Duck Round-Up; for one day anyone who wanted a duck could come and get one. The actual event proved disturbing to some residents as many of the participants seemed to be Chinese restaurant owners.

The chairman of the Planning Board said that he would have a few chicken experts on hand for the next meeting. In order to qualify, I have been doing some boning up on the topic and have come up with some very relevant chicken facts.

In a group of chickens with no rooster, female members will assume the role and even start crowing. Sort of like “The View.”

It also seems that chickens are not as harmless as we thought in that they are the closest living relative to a tyrannosaurus rex. It would be just like some wise-acre in Califon to reverse engineer a chicken to get a dinosaur. Just watch your property values tank when old T-rex goes pecking at a school bus for his lunch.

I plan to start a petition to allow pigs. I always wanted to have a pig farm. What the hell, I already have the wardrobe.

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