Blog | June 21, 2011

Bring Yolanda Home! Boston Organizes to Legalize Backyard Chickens.

JenI recently attended a gathering of Boston residents interested in rallying around the right to keep backyard chickens. While chickens are not illegal in Boston, the permitting process essentially makes it impossible to legally keep a backyard flock.

The first step in getting your permit is where you are likely to be denied unless your land is zoned for agricultural use. We do have a farm in city limits that has been around since colonial times, and we have some innovative urban farms, but most of us urbanites do not live on agricultural land. But many of us are lucky to have yards that are just perfect for a backyard flock.

If you make it through that step, the second part of the permitting process involves getting approval from the health department. Evidently they have given out two of those permits in the past two years. Two! But we know there are many more flocks than that in the city, flying under the radar. And those folks don’t want that–they want to be responsible, law-abiding chicken owners. So we’re working to bring about change.

This all came about because of Yolanda—she, in all her feathered glory, is our rallying point, our spokes-hen, our inspiration. Yolanda and her three fellow hens lived a happy life in the Boston neighborhood of Roslindale until one day when the Animal Control officer came by to tell Yolanda’s owners that without a permit, the flock had to go. When Yolanda’s owners applied for a permit, they were denied. Yolanda is now in exile, waiting for an appeal process to begin so she can become legal and go back home.

There are numerous benefits to keeping backyard chickens, best of all fresh, local, tastier and more nutritious eggs! But a backyard flock can also provide companionship, valuable learning experiences for kids, pest control, fertilizer and food independence. Backyard chickens are allowed in cities such as New York, Seattle, Chicago, Austin and local communities like Newton, Belmont and Arlington, Massachusetts.

Folks opposed to backyard birds have legitimate concerns about urban flocks, but they’re easily addressed by responsible owners. One concern is about the pests that an urban coop might attract, such as mice and rats. A properly built and maintained coop will keep infestations from occurring. Another concern is noise, but hens softly peep all day and go to sleep all night (you can’t say that for the neighborhood watch dog, can you?). Most cities outlaw roosters, which are not necessary for a steady supply of delicious eggs, hence no cock-a-doodle-doodling. Another concern is waste, but a responsible owner will actually turn that waste into valuable fertilizer by composting it (and making neighbors supporters by distributing that “black gold” for thriving gardens up and down the street!) Not to mention a flock of 4-5 chickens produces about the same amount of waste as just one dog.

To support Yolanda and bring her home, become a friend on facebook.

If you’re a Boston resident and want to support the effort to legalize backyard chickens, sign the petition.

And check out Yolanda’s website!

We’ll keep you posted on Yolanda’s plight and the work to make Boston as green and focused on local food security as it can be. If you have your own flock, or have worked to legalize chickens in your town or city, let us know!

Bring Yolanda Home!

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