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Backwoods? Raising chickens in town

The City Commission in West Fargo is debating a proposal, which would allow its residents to, of all things, keep chickens. 

The proposal is severely limited. Only four chickens per yard. They have to be cooped up. And the neighbors have to approve. 

Proponents say that allowing chickens will be eco-friendly and sustainable.

I am not sure that four chickens per household is going to save much of our rainforest, but it is a start. 

Perhaps we can use their feathers to wipe up oil spills. 

Opponents claim that the chickens could reduce the property values on the surrounding homes.

Property value is the big club suburbanites use to keep their neighbors in line. 

You can't paint your house purple, it will lower our property values.

You can't keep your 1978 Monte Carlo on blocks in your front yard, it will lower property values. 

You can't build a one-story house in a two-story house neighborhood, or a two-story house in a one-story house neighborhood, it will lower property values. 

And no chickens.

Makes me glad to live in the country, one-half mile from the nearest neighbors. Our property values are already rock bottom. Chickens couldn't make things worse. 

My neighbors don't bother me at all. During a clear winter evening, I can barely see two yard lights flicker through the woods. 

Every now and then, I hear a dog bark in the distance. I don't even know whose it is. And the barking is nothing compared to the racket when the coyotes get started. 

There's a rusty windmill somewhere that squeaks in an east wind. You can only hear the thing if the breeze is strong enough to get the windmill to turn but light enough so the rustling leaves don't drown out the squeaks. 

That happens twice per year. 

My most intrusive neighbors are the Canadian honkers on the swamp out front who can raise a racket in the middle of the night if they get to bickering. 

Now, if it were a neighbor's geese, I would get angry, lose sleep and take it to the County Commission. We probably wouldn't speak to each other and it would end up in court. 

But because nobody owns the geese, I sleep right through their honk-fests.

I am all for home-grown chickens, but I am pretty sure that if some rooster crowed at four a.m. in a neighbor's yard fifty feet out my bedroom window, I would figure out a way to make the situation unsustainable. 

You can't hit the snooze button on a rooster. 

As it is, I do have neighbors who raise chickens. An Amish family a mile across the field has a yard full of chickens. 

Last summer they butchered three birds for me. They were huge. I threw one on the grill less than two hours after it lost its head. Now that was some good chicken!

Stop to think of it, I have been eating a lot of locally-grown meat lately. Lamb chops. Duck breasts. Venison. Venison sausage. 

People hang onto their walleye, but you can often score some northern pike when an ice-fisherman's freezer gets full late in the winter.

The neighbors have been busy, and I have benefitted. 

The key factor here is that there is plenty of space separating people out here. That keeps them from suing when the neighbor's goat gobbles their garden.

A couple of years ago, two huge hogs trotted down our driveway. 

Pigs are one of my favorite animals. I thought the whole notion of big pigs touring the neighborhood was kind of funny.

I called the sheriff, mainly to see if anybody had reported lost hogs and to let them know in case anybody called in wondering where their hogs were. 

Much to my surprise, the deputy on the phone kindly offered to come right over and shoot the beasts before they got into our garden!

I said thanks but no thanks. Pre-emptive capital punishment seemed too severe. The hogs moved on within a few minutes. No harm done. 

As the world's economy collapses, I suspect more suburbanites will want to keep farm animals in the back yards of their McMansions. 

But keeping farm animals in town just a recipe for conflict, lawsuits and silly city ordinances. 

Much better to let us raise the animals out here where they don't bother anybody. 

It is easier to deal with coyotes than with lawyers.