What’s with people hating on chickens?

It happened in Iowa City and Cedar Rapids, too. City councils considered allowing a small number of hens to be raised in town, and people started with the chicken bashing.

“They poop!” the opposition declared.

Well, yes. They poop. But there’s no helping that. Dogs and cats have toilet baggage, too, but we don’t boot them to the farm.

“They carry disease!” the opposition continued.

But Matt Widner was a code-enforcement official during last year’s urban-chicken flap in Cedar Rapids, and he said disease was not a legitimate stopper.

“There’s no more disease in chickens than in dogs and cats,” he said. “There’s probably less, in fact, because there are fewer of them.”

The code-enforcement folks in Cedar Rapids are getting ready for an update to the city council on the status of the urban-chicken ordinance, which was passed about a year ago in the city of 128,000 people.

“I’m actually happy to say it’s one of the least-active ordinances we have,” Widner said Wednesday. “We’ve issued 28 permits, and we’ve had only one complaint.”

And what was the one complaint?

“A stray chicken,” he said.

LeClaire Mayor Bob Scannell said Wednesday that a couple of residents have expressed a desire to raise chickens, but the city council has no plans to consider it.

“There are two ordinances that would need changing and, right at this point, no vote is coming,” he said. 

But the topic is a talker, and city officials are looking into what would have to happen to open the door to hens.

Cedar Rapids took a thorough approach by making several things mandatory: a class in chicken-rearing at the local nature center; a limit of six hens; a $25 annual fee; a proper enclosure; notification of neighbors.

“You don’t have to get their permission, but you have to notify your neighbors,” Widner said.

And therein lies the stopper in LeClaire, Scannell said.

The family that has been most vocal in its desire for city-fresh eggs lives in a LeClaire subdivision where new homes fetch $200,000 to $300,000, the mayor said.

“Those people bought pretty expensive houses, and I don’t think chickens are that clean,” he said.

For starters, does this mean those filthy chickens would be fine in neighborhoods where homes are cheaper? Should the “unclean” be reserved for, say, the $100,000 range?

Secondly, Scannell admits he’s no farm boy but said he’s seen a chicken coop, and he says the fowl are foul.

I agree. My parents have chickens, and the chicken coop smells like chicken poop. In a bizarre twist, I’ve noticed my cats’ litter box sometimes smells of cat poop.

But I keep the cats, anyway, knowing full well they’ll never produce so much as a piece of toast for breakfast.

At least chickens have something to offer besides companionship. They produce eggs and meat, of course, but they also eat bugs and weeds and just about any kitchen scrap you can throw them. They can also be a lot of work, keeping them in food and water over the winter, and they are inclined to dig in flower gardens.

But you’ll never be awakened by a barking chicken, and you’ll never have to pick up murdered birds or ground squirrels the chickens left on the sidewalk.

In fact, now that I mention it, does anybody need a cat?


Contact Barb Ickes at (563) 383-2316 or bickes@qctimes.com.