Taking chickens seriously in Minneapolis

Every week our email fills up with stories from all over the country about cities and villages that are confronting the radical notion that people might want to raise chickens in their back yards. Chickens!

The objections are always the same, but usually boil down to the idea that chickens “just don’t belong” in residential areas.

So it was refreshing to see that, when our neighbors to the north engage in a discussion about urban chickens, they ask how chicken-keeping can be encouraged and improved. They even tell chicken jokes. Here’s one told by South Minneapolis Council Member Andrew Johnson at the Minneapolis Chicken Summit:
Question: How do chickens like to bake cake?
Answer: From scratch

The summit, organized by the Minneapolis Homegrown Food Council, took up a lot of issues, including how to expand sustainable agriculture in the Twin Cities area by letting urban farms raise chickens. The whole story from Minnesota Public Radio is worth reading if you’re interested in where the next steps in chicken keeping will lead.

We thought it was worth noting that, despite what you might read in the media, instances of chicken abandonment or neglect are very rare. Janelle Dixon, CEO of the Animal Humane Society, which serves seven counties in the Metro area, said chickens accounted for only about 28 of 24,000 animals that were brought to their shelters last year.

Minneapolis Animal Care and Control officials said there were 266 permitted chicken coops in Minneapolis last year, up from only 35 in 2006. For comparison, Madison, with a population only 62% as large as Minneapolis, has about 200 permits.