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Lonely Baby Chicks Need More Friends
Writer: Mo Karnage
Illustrator: Kristen Rebelo
Editors Note: This is an expansion and reinvigoration of an article Mo wrote in April of 2013, before joining The Quail Bell Crew!
In April of 2013 the City of Richmond approved a new ordinance making it officially permissable to have up to four hens on a residential property. The law requires you get a permit, which costs $60 every year.
For comparison, a yearly license for a dog is $10 every year. So it costs $15 per chicken (if you get the maximum of four, more per chicken if you get fewer: $20 each for three, $30 each for two, and $60 each for one). How does that even make sense?
Not to mention that it would seem that the idea of having chickens is about food access and local food and social justice. But if you have to pay an arbitrary $60 permit fee to the City just to have only four hens, it is going to be hard for folks to even break even on having hens once food and coop costs are calculated in. For instance, an average cost for a dozen eggs according to the bureau of labor statistics, is $1.93. So a $1.93 divided by 12 is roughly 16 cents per egg. $60 dollars (the permit cost) divided by 16 cents is 375. For the cost of a yearly chicken permit one could store buy 375 eggs, basically an egg a day. So you’d have to have an output of 375 eggs from your 4 hens each year to make chickens cost efficient in Richmond given the current permit and regulations. Then factor in the cost of time/materials for a coop, and the feed, and you’ve really got something unaffordable.
This seems like the new chicken rules are just some greenwashing yuppie victory than one which will largely help folks who need access to affordable, local, fresh food.
Many people who wanted to have chickens before these regulations were passed, simply did have chickens. Now it is likely or at least possible that there will be more enforcement against people without a permit. The current state of the chicken regulations in Richmond is great for hobbyists and folks for whom having your own chickens is suddenly trendy. Basically, for anyone whom can afford to take a loss on the fun of having chicken pets.
This seems to complicate matters for folks trying to get affordable, local food—especially folks living in food deserts. The fee is too high, and the folks who might most benefit from being allowed to have chickens are having that benefit taken away through the permit fees.
The new regulations require a minimum of three square feet per hen. For animal cruelty prevention reasons, this makes sense. Maybe the City of Richmond should also require that any and all eggs or products containing eggs that are sold in the City of Richmond are laid by hens who have at least three square feet of space in their coops.
An aspect of the Richmond law which has come to my attention is that it conflicts with State law. Virginia law requires that chicks be sold 6 at a time as a minimum. The reasoning behind this minimum is fair and rational. It is meant to discourage impulsive purchases of baby chicks for, say Easter presents, when they will later be unwanted and potentially neglected. And it is also to allow the chicks enough chick friends to huddle together for warmth.
Before this Spring hits, which is coming soon I hope, Richmond City Council members ought to update our Chicken ordinance, to allow for six hens. Any fewer hens simply sets Richmonders up for failure, potentially puts the chicks in harms way, and creates an unnecessary obstacle to successful Backyard Chickens. Additionally, updating our local law to be in compliance with state laws will lower the cost per chicken for the permit, increase the amount of eggs individuals can get, and overall increase people's access to local food.
I know that there are plenty of nice, well meaning people in Richmond who are genuinely excited about being able to have chickens as pets and/or for the benefit of eggs. To you I say, don’t settle for this. Don’t settle for a $15 a hen fee. Just because you can afford it, doesn’t mean you should have to. Don’t let the passing of this regulation be the end of your participation in the fight for food access, food justice, and local food in Richmond.
The 'win' of Backyard Chickens is just the beginning. We need to update the law to allow for 6 chickens. Then, we can perhaps allow chickens in front yards as well. Then there will be other aspects of food justice to be approached in Richmond.
Here are links to info from Richmond Animal Control on the issue:
Part 1: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5n_lAukWsxMYlE2ZGhCWVVmbkU/edit
Part 2: https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B5n_lAukWsxMTGgydDlsb0FKaTg/edit
#Chickens #UrbanFarming #DIY #Animals #Livestock #Food #Homegrown #RVA