Our opinion: A chicken in every…yard?

There was a time in American towns and some cities when some livestock for personal use was not only permitted in the fairly closeted environments of urban living, but widely accepted as the norm.

From Mrs. O’Leary’s cow which was fancifully accused of staring a conflagration that consumed half of Chicago, to horses used for daily transportation, to chickens for eggs and the occasional Sunday dinner, the sights, sounds and smells of postage-stamp farms were nearly as familiar to urbanites as they were to those in rural areas.

Times change. Cars and trucks, trolleys and buses banished horses to the country. Dairies that delivered milk to your door and the supermarkets that ultimately eliminated them sent the cows packing.

Those changes also made chickens a rarity in the confines of urban living.

People who live in close quarters have grown used to walking out their front doors in the morning, throwing their arms wide to embrace the day, inhaling deeply and detecting air that at its worst smells a bit like automobile exhaust or the miasma of industry. The fetor of chicken coops, the aroma of cow dung, the funk of road apples are not only unfamiliar, but generally unpleasant and unwanted these days in urban settings.

Add to that the peculiar noises associated with agricultural creatures and you have a fertile ground for neighborhood complaints.

But now, the hens have come to roost – so to speak – with the Warren County Planning Commission, which is grappling, so far indecisively, with the concept of “urban chickens.”

Apparently, some people who live in the more compact neighborhoods of the county would like to keep chickens on their premises. At the same time, others are less appreciative of the farmstead mystique.

So, it is now up to the arbitrators of land use to decide the parameters of the urban chicken ranch: how many chickens, the housing of same, and the distance from any neighbors who would much rather live next door to a whining cat than a crowing rooster.

We don’t envy them their task.