Backyard chickens can be a boon or a burden
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By Mickey Zeldes  May 30, 2014 12:00 am

Instead of a chicken in every pot, the new trend is a chicken in every backyard. This push to grow and raise your own food and have fresh eggs is a healthy one, but when it comes to raising your own food animals, there are some definite drawbacks that need to be considered.

First are zoning laws and what is permitted. So that everyone can peacefully enjoy their property, there are lot size and location requirements that determine what animals are permitted. Rohnert Park does not allow livestock, and chickens are considered livestock. Before you bring any animal home it’s always best to make sure it’s allowed.

Before we look to change that ordinance, consideration needs to be given to all the pros and cons of having livestock, even just little chickens, in an urban or suburban environment. The pro argument is obvious – fresh eggs from chickens that you know (what they’ve been fed, hormone free, no antibiotics, etc.). Let’s explore some of the arguments against permitting chickens.

Chickens are loud and they poop a lot. That means there is noise and smells that can offend disturb your neighbors. Keeping them contained can be an issue. Unless you clip their wings or always have them in a covered, secured area, they can flutter over fences and end up in your neighbor’s yard or in the street. Where there’s food (chicken feed) and small prey animals (the chickens themselves), there are predators and rodents. So it attracts rats, raccoons, coyotes and foxes into more populated areas, which is, of course a nuisance and danger to our pets.

It can be very difficult to accurately sex young chicks and all cities forbid noisy roosters, but how do you know when you innocently bring home a few chicks if they will all be female? Then comes the dilemma of what to do with the unwanted boy chicks because there are few uses for the males.

Another humane issue is that well-cared for chickens can live for 12-15 years, but they don’t lay eggs efficiently that whole time. If you have room for only a few chickens for eggs, then what do you do when your flock ages and egg production ceases? This trend is still young, so that issue hasn’t hit home yet. Most urban shelters aren’t equipped to deal with surplus roosters and senior hens, and I’ve read about many that have hundreds in their care. Not only is it a humane issue, it’s a cost issue because cities contract or run these shelters, and the additional expense is passed along to the taxpayers.

The thought of a few chickens peacefully roaming the backyard is so alluring and is being marketed as easy and inexpensive, but the reality of meeting the daily needs of a flock of hens, making sure they are safely confined at night away from predators, feeding daily and cleaning up a lot of poop is often more than people realize and the romance quickly fades. Taking on the care of an animal, any animal, should be made with a lifetime promise and needs to be well thought out. Hope you’ll do your homework before taking on those adorable little chicks!


Upcoming events 

Summer Camp: Registration is now open for our popular Kidz ‘n Critter summer camp program. We are offering seven one-week sessions of fun for kids in grades 2-7. Check out the complete schedule and download an application at or stop by the shelter to pick one up.


• Fix-it clinics: Free cat spay/neuter surgeries, and low-cost dog altering for low-income residents of Rohnert Park and Cotati. Call 588-3531 for an appointment.


Mickey Zeldes is the supervisor at the Rohnert Park Animal Shelter. She can be contacted at


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