This is in response to Neal Adams’ letter in the May 29 issue.
First, he states, “In a republic, the majority does rule, otherwise we would have 10 percent of the voters making decisions for all the voters.” In Tecumseh, those who want to keep backyard chickens are not trying to force all voters to keep chickens themselves; we merely want the freedom to decide for ourselves what we can do on our own property. What good is government if it doesn’t protect the rights of all residents — even (or especially) the minority?
Second, he says, “Most people agree with these [city ordinances] and they make a clean and safe city.” Clearly the hundreds of cities nationwide who allow urban chickens have found that these animals are in fact compatible with a “clean and safe” environment. However, in those cities, government was willing and able to compromise enough to write an ordinance that satisfied both sides of the debate. Clearly this is not the case in Tecumseh; it has been proven that compromise is not the strong suit of the current city council.
Third, he writes, “No one is denying a minority to raise chickens; they do this by attaining farmland.”
Unfortunately, “attaining farmland” is not within easy reach of the average city resident. According to Census.gov, the 2013 median home value in the city was $114,200. By contrast, the sale price of area homes on small acreage outside city limits ranges from a bare minimum of $200,000 to upwards of $250,000, according to Zillow.com. This puts “farmland” far outside the reach of the average city homeowner.
Thank you, Mr. Adams, for pointing out that the controversy over backyard chickens in Tecumseh has a strong social-class component. Despite Tecumseh’s reputation as an affluent town, many people can’t afford to move elsewhere and are trying to make the best of where they are.
Thank you also for calling attention to a common fallacy: in the 21st century, chickens are no longer relegated only to “farmland” and a rural lifestyle that is quickly disappearing. In reality, they are well-suited to urban environments; a small flock of four to six hens requires little space and only routine care, and produces less waste than the average dog. In fact, interest in urban chicken-keeping has exploded in recent years, and shows no signs of subsiding.
Many of the cities that regularly appear on lists of Best Places to Live allow their residents to keep a backyard flock. On Livability.com’s 2014 ranking, nine of its Top 10 cities are chicken-friendly — including Palo Alto, Calif., one of the most expensive towns in the U.S.
On that same list are Madison, Wis., where a group of residents produced an award-winning feature film documenting their successful efforts to legalize backyard hens in their town, and Durham, N. C., which hosts a popular annual Coop Tour with the proceeds going to charity.
It would appear that lawmakers in these cities – all of which are much larger and more densely populated than Tecumseh — recognize that backyard chickens are, in fact, harmless in an urban setting. They also recognize the need to embrace innovative ideas and change with the times, rather than remaining hopelessly mired in outdated mindsets.
Although change may come slowly to places like Tecumseh, it will indeed come, sooner or later. I encourage forward-thinking residents to hasten this process by voting “yes” on the proposed backyard chickens ordinance in November.
Lee L. Walsh