Chickens in Iowa City

Karen PeaseApril 16, 2009

Just wanted to make sure that anyone here from Iowa City knows that there's a petition going around to allow Iowa City residents to raise chickens:

It would be limited to 5 hens, no roosters, and no butchering, possibly based on the Madison ordinance. It's been being covered in the press and city council members have started weighing in. I see one leaning toward it, three leaning against it, and three who've made no statements in either direction, but none have really taken a firm stand.

If you live in IC, feel free to sign the petition and write the council, The Daily Iowan, The Gazette, and/or the Press-Citizen and let them know how you feel on the issue!

Some talking points:

* Cities like Madison, LA, Chicago, and even New York City allow the raising of hens. The Madison ordinance proved so popular that it was later amended to allow apartment dwellers to own them as well.

* Hens, unlike roosters, are quiet. They won't stay up late (like, say, a neighbor's dog). Hens that don't have chicks only make noise after they lay an egg, and only briefly.

* The stereotype of henhouses being smelly is due to the typical practice of raising large numbers of hens in tight quarters. A properly ventilated henhouse with only a few hens doesn't have that problem. Additionally, the ordinance can specify a minimum distance from neighboring dwellings.

* Any problems one might have with a neighbor's hens can be addressed with nuisance complaints, just like with any problematic pet.

* Hens not only provide their owners with eggs, but pest control, weed control, fertilizer, and as you can feed them scraps and weeds (even lawn clippings), they reduce household waste. The eggs they provide when given a diverse diet tend have been shown in laboratory testing to be significantly more nutrient-rich than commercial grain-fed eggs.

* Raising hens allows children to see where their food comes from, take pride in their efforts, and see the rewards.

* Passing the ordinance will stimulate the economy. Chicken coops costs hundreds of dollars to build, not to mention the feed they consume and bedding they need every year. The city could easily be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars upfront and tens of thousands per year in additional financial activity.

* Concerns about abandoned hens can be addressed through a permitting fee, as used in Madison, with at least part of the money going to the animal shelter. The Cedar Rapids Animal Shelter already takes in adopted hens and works with local farmers to adopt them out.

Lastly, contact everyone you know who might be interested and ask them to get involved! :)

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Pretty cool stuff, IMO. The topic was also brought up at the last Cedar Rapids council meeting (I believe according to the Gazette). My husband and I have said it would be nice to have a few chickens...but I wonder if they'd scratch up the whole lawn and my garden? I'll be watching this with interest...

    Bookmark   April 16, 2009 at 3:26PM
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Karen Pease

Here's an interesting article about chickens and gardens:

That's What Hens Are For

Basically, hens are safe in a garden but only if you set it up to be hen-safe. If you just let them out into some random garden, they'll eat it up and destroy it. Basically, there are plants they will eat and plants they won't eat, and some plants (like beans) that they'll eat but where most of the crop is too high for them to reach. So you need to keep them away from the plants that they'll eat, excepting what you decide to let them nibble on for their health. Also, you should never leave them around seedlings/small plants, even ones that they don't eat, because their scratching can kill them; however, established plants are generally safe against scratching. In turn, the hens reward you with free weeding, bug control, and fertilizer, and what they eat in the garden significantly lowers the cost of their feed (as well as makes their eggs healthier -- hens fed greens produce much healthier eggs).

    Bookmark   April 17, 2009 at 11:42AM
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    Bookmark   April 18, 2009 at 7:31PM
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Thanks for the article link, Karen - very interesting stuff.

    Bookmark   April 21, 2009 at 10:15AM
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greenmulberry(5-Iowa City)

Hi Karen, I hope you guys get to have your hens.

I live just outside IC city limits and I keep some hens. They really are a great addition and I think that this is a totally reasonable request.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2009 at 10:45AM
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I think its ridiculous of cities to not allow folk to keep a few chickens, they are certainly more behaved than many neighborhood children

    Bookmark   May 1, 2009 at 11:04AM
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I am happy to report that people in Iowa City can now keep 4 hens in their backyard.But if your neighbor doesn't like chickens your permit will be vetoed. Barking dogs & flower bed fouling cats can't be vetoed.Just sayin.
Haha,as Javern said in above post,they are better neighbors than some children.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2012 at 10:08AM
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