Denver Backyard Farms is part of a movement that
is springing up all across America. This movement is about promoting
agriculture in our backyards, our sideyards, our front yards, our vacant lots.
This movement embraces "sustainability," which in this context means using our
natural resources wisely and renewably to the greatest extent possible.
More specifically, Denver Backyard Farms promotes
the use of food-producing animals in Denver. Current Denver ordinances allow
ownership of chickens, goats, ducks and other animals more commonly found on
farms. However, in order to be permitted to keep these animals under the
current ordinances one must follow a Kafkaesque routine of multiple visits to
two city agencies, posting notices in your yard, getting approval from your
neighbors, having your property inspected, and paying fees of $150. Annual
renewals cost an additional $70 and a renewal application can be denied if a new
neighbor moves in who doesn't like you or your chickens or goats. Consequently,
these convoluted procedures present a huge barrier to anyone wishing to have,
say, a small clutch of chickens for the eggs or a couple of goats for milk. Not
to mention that these animals make great pets and are fun for the whole family,
neighbors, friends and kids all around.
Since we started this campaign we have met and
heard from many, many people in Denver who want to help support themselves with
the backyard resources they have and with the help of some fun animals. We have
met a few people who have endured the arduous process of getting a permit, and
we have met many more who have not, people who are part of the "chicken
underground." We have even met people who have been busted for having
chickens. Just imagine: alcohol is legal, marijuana is (sort of) legal, but
having a sweet, quiet, egg-laying hen that provides its owners and his or her
neighbors with quality food and helps protect the environment can get you in
trouble with the law.
Since we started this campaign we have also done a
bit of homework on other cities that allow food-producing animals. The results
will shock you. New York City, yes, New York City allows them. Also, Los
Angeles, Chicago, Seattle. Closer to home there is Lakewood, Arvada and
Colorado Springs. Ft. Collins began allowing them since last year.
Raising food-producing animals in your back yard
is desirable for the following reasons:
* High-quality, fresh, organic (if desired)
food supply raised without chemicals.
* Sustainability: fewer trips to the store and
fewer deliveries from agribusiness means less fuel used, less air pollution, and
less traffic congestion, i.e. a lower carbon footprint. Chickens and goats eat
your leftovers. Goats can clean up your weeds, and chickens can also remove
weeds and insect pests out of your yard.
* Fun, fun fun. Chickens and goats are F-U-N.
Their antics amuse and delight their owners. Neighbors all want to see them.
Kids love them. Owning them creates neighborhood.
* Animal welfare improved. If you get all your
eggs from a half-dozen hens who cavort in your backyard, that is six fewer
chickens who will toil in tiny, windowless boxes until their value as producers
is spent and they are killed for pet food, never having seen the light of day, a
la the Matrix.
Last year, Denver's City Council wisely permitted
small-scale beekeeping. This year, the City of Denver has become aware of the
importance of sustainability, and they have a great opportunity to embrace it.
Thus, what with the administration interested in these issues and our elected
officials aware of its benefits, we think the time is right for a change in the
law that will encourage, rather than discourage, Denver Backyard Farms.
Are Permitted and Prohibited In Denver
You can have as many as three dogs of unlimited size and barking
power. And biting power. Mastiffs can grow to 190 pounds; Great Danes reach
You can have 1,000—or even 10,000—Boa Constrictors
or Reticulated Pythons or Anacondas, as long as they are only six
You can have as many as 25 pigeons. Many studies have
shown that pigeons represent serious health threats to humans. A few of the
You can have 50,000 or more rats or mice. No limit
You can have zero chickens or goats! A Nigerian Dwarf or
African Pygmy goat averages around 18” tall and would be lucky to hit 60
pounds. They do not bark or threaten passers-by. But their milk is to die
for. Most standard-sized hens come in at between five and eight pounds and
cannot bark, but they can (barely) fly. But the eggs!!!
It could easily be argued that goats and chickens are far
superior even as pets than are cats, dogs, snakes, etc.; it is a simple matter
of preference. But there is no subjectivity at all when such things as
environmental impact, public health, safety, value of produce, etc., are
considered. The poop of a chicken is the very best natural fertilizer you can
use on your lawn or in your garden. The poop of a dog is disgusting. Back yard
chicken eggs are superior to anything you can buy in any store. And they are
also superior to pigeon eggs.
It is time to take a good, hard look at the keeping of
animals in the City of Denver. There is a complete lack of common sense and
informed action. We need to change this and stop making the keeping of
wonderful, beneficial food producing animals with almost zero negative impact on
the environment a criminal act.
Let’s be reasonable and fix this
From “The Hen: An Appreciation”
E.B. White, 1944
Chickens do not always enjoy an
honorable position among city-bred people, although the egg, I notice,
goes on and on. Right now the hen is in favor. The war has deified her
and she is the darling of the home front, feted at conference tables,
praised in every smoking car, her girlish ways and curious habits the
topic of many an excited husbandryman to whom yesterday she was a
stranger without honor or allure.
Hen with her
My own attachment to the hen dates from
1907, and I have been faithful to her in good times and bad. Ours has
not always been an easy relationship to maintain. At first, as a boy in
a carefully zoned suburb, I had neighbors and the police to recon with;
my chickens had to be as closely guarded as an underground newspaper.
Later, as a man in the country, I had my old friends in town to reckon
with, most of whom regarded the hen as a comic prop straight out of
vaudeville….Their scorn only increased my devotion to the hen. I
remained loyal, as a man would to a bride whom his family received with
open ridicule. Now it is my turn to wear the smile, as I listen to the
enthusiastic cackling of urbanites, who have suddenly taken up the hen
socially and who fill the air with their newfound ecstasy and knowledge
and the relative charms of the New Hampshire Red and the Laced
Wyandotte. You would think, from their nervous cries of wonder and
praise, that the hen was hatched yesterday in the suburbs of New York,
instead of in the remote past in the jungles of India.