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Tomorrow night, the City of Annapolis (my hometown) will vote whether to allow residents to keep chickens (hens only – no roosters) in backyard coops. My husband and I are huge supporters of this proposed ordinance and would love to be able to legally keep chickens in our backyard. What’s been interesting to us is the debate surrounding this proposed change. So much of the opposition is based on factually INCORRECT information. For example, people are worried about roosters and the noise they make (but the ordinance prohibits roosters), they’re concerned that chickens will be running loose around the neighborhood (would-be chicken keepers would be required to build a coop that meets city requirements), etc.

Attendance at neighborhood meetings is usually low and the people who turn out for these things tend to be the same small group of older adults who either have no kids or whose kids are now in college or older, and this audience is, by and large,  opposed to chickens. While I respect their opinions, I find it incredibly frustrating that my generation (I’m 41, so we’re not that young!) has been noticeably absent and silent with regards to this and other discussions impacting our neighborhood. Whether its keeping chickens, moving a playground, raising taxes, or providing funding for a fire station, I find it hard to accept that only residents aged 60 and over are influencing our Aldermen.

A better solution – and a more engaged citizenry – is required. I won’t be offended if you don’t want chickens, but please, people, show up and make your opinions heard on this and other issues. Otherwise the City will be governed by a small cadre of retired professionals with a lot of time on their hands. We didn’t elect them, but make no mistake, they’re in charge. And if the rest of us don’t show up, it serves us right.

Regardless of where you stand on the issues, it’s time to plan ahead for childcare and make sure that at least one person in your household shows up when our Aldermen hold community meetings. This is where the decisions are made that will impact you and your family for years to come.

Enough said! Get out and get vocal!

(and if you DO happen to support the notion of residential chickens (or if you don’t care), do me a favor and send this email to your Alderman. Every email counts!)


Dear ____________:

I am writing today to express my support for the revision of draft City Ordinance 8.04.010 (Maintaining Animals) to allow chickens to be kept on residential properties within the City of Annapolis.

Chickens are legal in Baltimore, New York City and many other cities around the US and the world. I strongly believe that residents of the City of Annapolis should have the choice to keep chickens, whether as pets or for eggs, just as they do dogs, cats, ferrets, guinea pigs, snakes and other animals.

People who don’t want to have chickens won’t be forced to get them, nor will they be forced to be neighbors with them. But for those who do want them, have the required yard space, have agreeable neighbors, and understand the cost and time required to care for them, this ordinance would provide them a choice. I personally don’t want to keep a snake, guinea pig or ferret in my house, but do not feel that it is my place, or the city’s, to tell other residents that they should not be allowed to keep them.

While the original bill did not address many of the concerns that people have regarding noise, cleanliness, etc., the new, revised bill contains sufficient safeguards including a provision that would require residents to obtain the approval of their neighbors in order to keep chickens. Concerns regarding the health and safety of keeping chickens are overstated and have been proven to be non-issues for small flocks such as discussed by this bill, especially considering the precautions required by this ordinance. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): “There is no need at present to remove a (family) flock of chickens because of concerns regarding avian flu.” Additionally, conventionally processed eggs are much more likely to contain communicable pathogens, such as salmonella, than home-grown eggs.

The fact is, much of the opposition regarding this ordinance is based on ignorance and false information (for example, roosters – which produce the most noise – would not be allowed). Home chicken flocks are beneficial to our neighborhood – they help reduce the amount of trash going to the landfill (food scraps are fed to the chicken); they reduce the amount of pesticides needed (chickens consume large amounts of the bothersome insects in our yards such as mosquitoes, ticks and fleas); they reduce the amount of herbicide and fertilizer runoff (they clear unwanted vegetation and produce natural compost); they create a home-grown, low-carbon footprint protein source; and they educate our children about where food really comes from.

Dr. David Waltner-Toews, veterinarian, epidemiologist, and professor at the University of Guelph, has written that he knows of “no evidence linking human illness with keeping small urban flocks.”  Further, he believes that “if we do not make room for these urban entrepreneurs, we risk losing a set of very important food-rearing skills that will enable us to better navigate the economic, climatic and environmental instability our society will face in the coming decades.”

It is my hope that, as my representative on the City Council, you will cast your vote in favor of this Ordinance on the basis of factual information that has proven that keeping residential chickens in an urban setting is a viable option so that people such as myself will be able to join millions of other city dwellers around our country in choosing for ourselves whether chickens are right for us.

Should you need any further information in order to respond to constituent concerns, please visit the following sites. They explain clearly why chicken keeping is not only safe, but beneficial for our community.


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Hurricane IreneHurricane Irene is heading up the East Coast and is expected to make landfall 50 miles East of us in Ocean City sometime late tonight. It has been interesting to see how differently people respond to the prospect of a hurricane. Some panic and stockpile food and water as though the end of days were coming, while others get a cold six pack of beer and sit back to await the fun.

Here in our house my husband John and I fall in different camps. I’m a big believer that it doesn’t cost much to be prepared, but the price you pay for doing nothing can be enormous if the worst occurs. John thinks the press and forecasters have blown the storm out of proportion and we’ll be fine. I’d be lying if I said this hasn’t caused the teensiest bit of tension in our house the last few days.

I started getting ready on Thursday by reviewing NOAA’s hurricane preparedness guides and buying groceries and bottled water at Sam’s Club. Yesterday, I filled up the gas tank of my car and took about $200 cash out of the ATM. Last night, I mowed the lawn (that has nothing to do with the hurricane – I just can’t stand when the lawn looks bad and with all the rain we have coming, if it doesn’t get done now, it’ll be at least a week before we cut it) and turned the refrigerator temperature to its coldest setting. After work, I asked him to help me secure our outdoor furniture and put away some random objects in our yard (lanterns, buckets, patio furniture cushions) that might blow around if we get high winds. He did, but we wound up having a little argument over whether he had done enough. In the end, everything got done and we’ll be prepared (at least to my standards), but it did reveal a real difference in how the two of us approach these situations.

Here’s the deal. Neither one of us is right or wrong. If the storm turns out to be a non-event, I’ll admit that I’ll feel a little silly for having spent so much time getting us ready. If it’s a big deal, I’m pretty sure he’ll thank me for taking care of everything.

I have a theory about why we react so differently. I think my reaction has to do with my natural instinct, as a mother, to nurture and protect. If big, bad Irene comes knocking on our door, I want my family to be warm, dry, well fed, and safe here in our house. I want to wake up the next day and see that there has been no damage to our belongings. Most of all, I want to be sure that my husband and kids come through unscathed.

It’s not that I don’t think my husband cares about all of this. Instead, I think he knows deep down that I’ve got all that covered and that we’ll be relying on him to jump in if and when things get ugly. He’s the guy that will have to go outside in the pouring rain and high winds and climb a ladder to clean our gutters if there is a problem. He’ll also be the one to figure out how to hook our submergible pump up to a marine battery so we can pump water out of our basement if the power goes out. In short, he gets the dirty jobs and he knows that I’m his “advance team.”

I realize that our division of responsibilities puts us squarely within our gender stereotypes, and I’m okay with that. I really don’t want to do the stuff he does, and he doesn’t want to do what I do, so it all works out in the end.

That explains the differing reactions in our house, but I wonder about everyone else. Why do some people go into emergency mode at the threat of a storm while others look at it as a reason to party? How do YOU react?

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