Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Backyard Poultry Debate on Michigan's West Side

On the west side of the mitt, in my home town of Holland, a debate on the role of backyard livestock is heating up. Chickens are one of the greatest pets a child could ever have and have economic, nutritional, and practical advantages as urban livestock. 

Currently only a few cities in Michigan allow people to keep chickens as pets. In these cases, birds are able to provide eggs daily, can fertilize and control pests in gardens and can be enjoyable family pets. The only cities in Michigan that I can find that allow chickens within city limits are Ann Arbor, Benton Harbor, Lansing, East Lansing, and Traverse City. Several of the cities require permits and most have a cap of 4-5 hens and do not allow roosters. Having no roosters mean the birds are quieter than an average dog and the eggs are sterile and 4 birds cannot become 20.

My father just had an article published in the Holland Sentinel about the shift in public and residential policy that is needed in a nature starved and agriculturally isolated environment.

This is one of the hurdles that needs to be overcome in order to encourage positive changes that democratize and decentralize the American food system. If we want to develop urban environments that are therapeutic and foster discovery and personal ownership of food production, these simple steps are vital. I would encourage individuals to enquire as to the local laws surrounding a handful of backyard hens. If they are amenable I encourage people to take advantage of them. If laws do not allow them write a letter to the editor in local newspapers and push for new coop laws.  Public perception and policy toward the keeping of a small number of reasonably contained and maintained urban chickens needs to shift in order to push Michigan towards wider sustainability and healthy living.





  1. Kathryn Lynch Underwood of the Detroit City Planning Commission let us know a couple months back that Detroit will be reviewing policies related to urban farming, and that codes will likely be revised to allow chickens, rabbits, goats, and bees in the city. They also hope to establish agricultural zoning in certain areas - I hope to see Detroit become one of the most progressive cities in not only the state, but the country, as this debate continues.

  2. Also, if your dad is looking for research to provide to the zoning board, the Children and Nature Network provides background about the specific benefits of nature for children's development.