The 6 Silliest Arguments Against Backyard Chickens July 20, 2012

We’ve never heard any meaningful reasons against keeping a small flock of pet backyard chickens. Objections to urban and suburban chicken keeping usually spring from basic ignorance or a lack of education about chickens, and occasionally just a plain lack of common sense. Below are the basic objections you will hear… and as you will see, they don’t represent a single meaningful reason to make keeping a small flock of chickens illegal.

free ranging chickens

Roosters are not needed for egg production, contrary to common belief

1. “Chickens are smelly!”

Chickens don’t smell bad any more than other pets do. A properly clean chicken coop has no objectionable odors. While it’s certainly true that if your chicken coop is seldom or never cleaned, it will begin to smell, the same is true of a cat box that is never cleaned, or a dog kennel that is never cleaned.  There are laws against animal cruelty, animal neglect, animal abuse, and so on that apply to all pets. The bottom line is that responsible people give their pets proper care and provide them with a clean environment.

Chalk this argument up to a lack of common sense. Chickens are no different from other pets in this regard.

2. “Laying hens are loud!”

The truth is that a flock of laying hens is actually quiet, far more quiet than dogs are. A hen will cackle or squawk when she lays an egg. That occurs once a day—or less, depending on the breed and age of the hen, as well as the season.

fresh eggs from backyard chickens

… and the payoff is this. Just TRY to find eggs like this in the grocery store.

Eggs laid by hens raised on pasture have 67% more vitamin A, 200% more Omega-3s, 300% more Vitamin E, 700% more Beta carotene… and 33% LESS cholesterol  and 25% LESS saturated fat.

Sunny-side up eggs on leftover pizza

We eat eggs many ways, but one of my husband’s favorites is over leftover pizza for breakfast. Just LOOk at the healthy color of those yolks. Those sickly yellow store bought eggs don’t compare.

The noise level for the squawk after egg laying is up to 70 decibels at its very loudest, or about the same volume as a normal conversation between two people… and in the same range of noise volume made be an air conditioner, a washer, or a flushed toilet. That’s as loud as they get. Lawn mowers and barking dogs register at around  90 -100 decibels, much louder than a few hens. And roosters can be loud, sure–about as loud as a barking dog–but roosters are not required for egg production.

The noise argument is based on basic ignorance about chickens and biology. Many uneducated people think they will hear crowing if their neighbors keep hens for eggs, because they think a rooster is required for egg production… but he’s not. Human women ovulate regardless of whether a male is around or not, and so does a hen. Remember, roosters are only required if you want your hen’s eggs to be fertile!

3. “Chicken flocks produce a lot of poop and waste!”

Very little solid waste is produced by chickens, and what IS produced can be composted to make great fertilizer.

Sunburst squash

Squash love composted chicken manure

By way of comparison, an average dog will produce around a pound of poop in a day, whereas a flock of four hens will only produce less than half that, about 1.5 ounces of waste per hen. Four chickens produce less waste than a medium house cat, too. Plus, composted chicken manure can eventually be used for your garden (another reason why people who have hobbies like gardening are often interested in keeping chickens, and vice versa).

beautiful compost

Here’s a photo of some future tomatoes… I mean, compost

Normally you don’t compost dog or cat poo, since manure is more nutritious for plants if it has been produced by animals that get most of their nutrition from plants (including cows, sheep, goats, horses… and chickens).

The worry about chickens producing too much poop comes a lack of common sense–forgetting that ALL pets produce waste–paired with ignorance that small flocks of chickens actually produce less waste than most other single pets.

4. “Chickens will attract wild animals to my neighborhood!”

Don’t be silly! Presuming you keep everything clean and tidy with your pet chickens just as you would when keeping a pet cat or dog, raising chickens doesn’t make rodents or other pests magically appear from thin air. While it IS true that if there are any pests already in your neighborhood, they might be attracted to chicken feed if you spill it or don’t keep it secured, they would be just as attracted to spilled or unsecured cat or dog food, wild bird feed, a koi pond, or even to your family’s food waste discarded in unsecured outdoor garbage cans or compost piles–and all of those probably already exist in most neighborhoods, anyway. Chicken food is no different from any other pet food in that respect.

If you do have small rodents in your area, a flock of chickens can actually reduce their number, since some breeds will catch and eat small mice and moles like cats do–chickens will eat small snakes, too. Plus, they eat other pests like ticks, mosquitos, grasshoppers and the like.

Backyard chickens foraging for bugs

These pretty chickens are helping to keep down the bug population

Chickens are generally more vulnerable to attack by smaller predators than dogs are… but even so, small dogs and cats can be attacked by hungry wild animals, too. That said, stories like this one don’t mean that dachsunds or other small dogs are likely to “attract” predators to the neighborhood. This is another argument demonstrating a basic lack of common sense.

5. “Legalizing chickens will negatively affect property values”  

Not true. Take a few moments to read some old news stories about the legalization of backyard chickens, and you’ll notice that no actual evidence indicating that property values drop due to backyard chickens is EVER cited. Instead, the media will report that opponents simply have a “fear” of reduced property values. It seems to me that reporters should follow that claim up with actual data… but there is none to be had (and you know the media these days). So this argument is like a bogeyman: it’s not real, but is frequently employed to frighten people into a position of compliance and fear. We’ve heard stories about realtors like this one who feel that the right to keep a small flock of chickens could attract people to buy.

Golden Laced Polish hen

A Golden Laced Polish hen

The Alexandria chicken coop

The Alexandria chicken coop

Rather than driving neighbors apart, chickens are usually conversation starters, particularly unusual breeds like Polish with their huge crests, or Silkies with their fur-like feathers. And today’s small flock chicken coops are boutique, high-end items designed to look pretty in the yard. Remember, neighbors who want to keep chickens are just that: your neighbors. They care about the value of their homes and the quality of life in their community just as much as opponents of backyard chickens do–maybe more. People who keep backyard chickens are often involved in many other hobbies that add value to your neighborhood, including flower or vegetable gardening, beekeeping, growing fruit trees or berry bushes and so on.  Think about it: this is exactly the sort of thing that can enhance community feeling and friendship in your neighborhood. Imagine a neighborhood where your neighbors share berries, fresh eggs, zucchini and tomatoes with you… and you might “lend” a cup of sugar or share a mug of coffee. That’s what good neighbors do.

Heirloom tomatoes

Brandywines and Mr. Stripeys grown is soil rich with composted chicken manure

That’s why some of the most expensive and exclusive communities in the country allow small flocks of laying chickens. For example, New York, Portland, Chicago and Boulder–cities with some of the highest property values in the country–allow hens. If keeping chickens negatively affected the property values of the communities that permitted them, surely the communities would be taking steps to repeal them based on this mounting evidence, right? This is not happening. Instead, in some areas with high property values, the regulations are actually becoming more permissive with regard to backyard chickens, presumably because these places have found that the quality of life has improved. For example, in 2010, Seattle went from allowing families 3 hens to allowing 8 hens, a much more reasonable number if your family eats lots of eggs, especially if you don’t want to be limited to getting only the breeds with the highest egg production.

The “property value” argument is typically based on emotions and other evidence-less prejudices. There is zero evidence that legalizing pet chickens has affected property values.

6. “People who want to keep chickens should just move to the country!”

This is probably the most ridiculous “argument” of all, if it can even be termed an argument. In the United States, no matter where you live, you have basic rights that allow you to enjoy your own property… but that means your neighbors have the same rights to enjoy their property, as disappointing as some may find that to be. If YOU are unduly bothered by your neighbors–when their activities don’t affect property values, produce foul odors, loud noise, excess waste or present other actual problems–then YOU are the one who’ll need to consider moving out of town and into the country.

Some people would be happier with a buffer zone around them so that it will be easier for them to mind their own business and be less invasive of the privacy of others who live nearby. If you are that type of person, then just purchase a reasonable amount of acreage and put your house in the middle, so interaction with your neighbors will be minimal. Out in the country with plenty of space around you, you’ll be happier and less stressed out by what any of your neighbors might be doing on their own property.

Wait, you’re thinking that telling someone to move out of their home doesn’t seem like a real, workable solution to a problem? Really?  Yeah, that’s right. It’s really stupid. The sensible thing would be for everyone to live and let live, and to stop worrying so much about what’s happening on your neighbor’s side of the fence.

45 Comments
Jennifer Johnson July 20th, 2012

This was a great article. I am always telling people these same things. I am still surprised with people and their confusion and fear of my sweet chickens.

Angela July 20th, 2012

I’ve been told my neighbors don’t like my chickens because they’re afraid my chickens might hurt or scare their children. Since my chickens are contained not sure how this is possible.

Bee July 20th, 2012

I find my neighbors all-invasive cigarette smoke more objectionable than chickens. If they can chain smoke in their backyard with their yapping dogs I can dang well house a few hens in my organic garden! Thanks for the article :)

Christine R. July 20th, 2012

I have had to explain some of these things to some people a few times. But most times people like the idea of having a small flock. They think it’s harder than it is. :)
For the most part no one gives me a hard time.

Rebecca Lane July 20th, 2012

Good answers! I’d suggest dropping phrases like “Don’t be silly!”. Not the best way to engage a sceptic, as it feels dismissive & disrespectful.

Lissa July 20th, 2012

Rebecca, it IS dismissive. I dismiss the nonsense arguments, and will await reasoned objections.

atrost7 July 20th, 2012

Great article! One of the most ridiculous arguments I have heard against keeping backyard chickens is that “chickens will attract bugs.” Don’t these people know that bugs are a faveorite food of chickens?!?!? One of the best things about having backyard chickens is you don’t have the yucky bugs! I especially like that chickens eat ticks & mosquitoes!

Krista July 20th, 2012

The biggest complaint I’ve heard around here is “If you let people have chickens in town then they’re gonna want pigs/horses/cows in their backyard!”

I have a very artfully landscaped yard. I am not going to put a pig in it.

TJ July 20th, 2012

You must have been sitting in on the past year and a half of Zoning Commission, Animal Control Board, and City Council meetings in Billings, MT! Verbatim complaints… such a lot of hysteria over such quiet little bug-eating, compost-creating, egg-producing happy backyard hens!

Carlos Villarreal July 20th, 2012

What an interesting and mind opener article. I am glad I read this paragraphs and thankful to you guys for taking the time to prepare such a cultural reading

I live in Glendale, CA and the City only allows 2 chicks per household, no roosters at all and I consider that as a sad and excluding law. I hope these guys could read this article and do something to change the law in my city. Thank you MyPetChicken. Great job

Sally Nelson July 20th, 2012

my neighbours LOVE my chickens, and make sure that the leavings from their vegie patch, plus the grass clippings, come over the fence for our chooks.
We in turn give them eggs occasionally – a lovely relationship

Coco Rogers July 20th, 2012

My girls are sweet, pretty, clean, and their chatter is pleasant to hear. They are sociable, affectionate pets, and they are very tolerant and gentle with my 6 year old son. I can’t understand how these attractive, useful birds could be considered more of a nuisance than some people’s high-strung, nippy, noisy toy dogs I’ve met in my travels.

Besides, the conditions factory farm chickens are forced to endure are truly horrifying. I don’t think people would be as accepting of such inhumane treatment in the name of cheap eggs once they got to know some actual well-tended pet chickens.

Excellent article! I hope more communities see the light about chicken keeping.

Sonflower July 21st, 2012

Thank you for a wonderful article…we are having our own little issue regarding our hens, and will be using these sound reasonings to educate and hopefully make some changes in people’s hearts.
Amazing that there are people who actually FEAR chickens…
In our town, the regulations need to change a bit, so we will be working on that.
Thank you, MyPetChicken!!!

Sherri-Aynn Collins July 21st, 2012

Great blog post! Have my first 4 month old chickens and I worry what to say if any neighbors object. Good ammo! So far neighbors think I am just a quirky but and I’m pretty sure our dogs are much more annoying than chickens will ever be!

Sonya July 23rd, 2012

Great article. The obnoxious children in our neighbourhood make far more noise screaming & crying in their backyard than any chickens ever would!

Peggy K July 23rd, 2012

I am currently “chicken-sitting” for my daughter’s four chickens. And I have to say, the noise from the cicadas drowns out everything. I rarely hear the sweet, almost cooing, sounds from the chickens. So those who are concerned with noise, join me in sitting with them for a few days. You’ll actually begin to see them as pets.

Kate August 4th, 2012

I would like to dedicate this article to the police department of Kingsford, MI. Not that they’ll read it…

Julie M. August 9th, 2012

My neighbor and his constantly running power saw is WAY louder than my rooster. :)

Lou T. August 10th, 2012

Thank you for taking the time to write and then post this blog. Your blog posting inspires those of us who are facing these very same hurdles in realizing our dreams of raising our own flock of backyard chickens in our home towns. I am hoping to raise my own small flock of backyard chickens here in my home town of Belvidere Illinois. I have not made that step as of yet because I am in the process of educating myself on the “how To” of caring for and raising backyard chickens and the impacts it may or may not have on my neighborhood so when I go to my town’s zoning board I want to be speaking from a platform that is based on fact and data instead of speculation and fear. If you have any additional suggestions or information that may help me in my efforts I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks again , Lou T.

Lou T. August 10th, 2012

What I meant to say is that “I want to be speaking from a platform that is based on fact and data so I can hopefully put at ease any feelings of speculation and fear which they might have.

Diana F August 10th, 2012

I have three girls, they always stay in their coop/run (city ordinance). They cluck a little when they lay, but I have two rottweilers next door that could wake the living dead when they bark!!! My coop is clean, the girls don’t bother anyone, and I actually have one other neighbor a block away who has three BPRs, and four other neighbors, within a block and half, who are so intrigued they want to get their own chickens within the next year. There is actually a renegade rooster that lives several blocks from me and runs loose, and they’ve had him for a number of years, and nobody seems too bothered by him. I live in the center of town, in a very nice house in a beautiful older part of town, and it doesn’t seem to be a problem, plus I can legally have 3 hens. I just don’t get all the fuss. Chickens have been legal in my city since I was a kid (city population currently 750,000). I can remember several neighbors having chickens and never thought anything about it, and neither did anyone else. I do think roosters should not be allowed (which they aren’t) because of the crowing. People have rude children, pot belly pigs, barking dogs, loud cars, loud music, some don’t take care of their yards, etc., etc., and they think that is no big deal, but chickens are????? Seriously!!! If the food situation gets any tougher with all this bad weather and draught, they might be wishing they had chickens.

McKenna August 14th, 2012

So true…. I wish my nabors could see this !!!!!!!

Sue K. August 23rd, 2012

I tried to fight my neighbor’s complaint to my township by attending planning commission meetings and aproaching the board. Our township atty threatened to take me to court and possibly face 90 days in jail for an ordinance violation. My little ladies are gone…but my coop remains in clear view to the ONLY neighbor who complained….so sad…loved this article, thanks! PS – you can google my story “Woman faces jail time for keeping chickens” WNEM TV5, Williams Township, MI.

Sarah August 25th, 2012

Great article! Yes, some of these arguments against chickens are so silly! I think some of the concern about noise comes from the fact that people aren’t used to hearing chicken sounds, not necessarily that they are louder than other pets… just that it’s a different noise than what’s familiar, which is a shame. But it’s like when someone from the city, who is used to noisy city sounds like cars honking, car alarms, and such, goes camping in the woods and says they can’t sleep because it’s too noisy – from crickets chirping, owls hooting, the wind blowing through the trees, etc… But the good news is that people easily get used to new sounds!

The Reticulator August 27th, 2012

Unfortunately these sound like reasons you give to a zoning board, not reasons you give to your neighbor.

Diana B. from Eat What You Store September 12th, 2012

Great article! I agree all six points! For #2-I have to tell you, my neighbor’s dogs are a lot louder than my chickens. They bark all night and all day, and they live way down the block. Many people do not realize this about chickens. Thanks for sharing!

Vickie September 14th, 2012

Do you have an answer for those who argue chickens will bread disease, like bird flus? Also, have you ever seen (or thougth of creating) a brochure or a fact sheet that lists out these topics? With the volumes of chicken lovers that are fighting city hall, it would be super helpful to have something professional to hand the uneducated people voting against us.

Lissa September 14th, 2012

Just like the other “arguments” above, the idea that pet chickens spread disease more than other pets do is pretty silly. We included that “argument” under the idea that chickens are “dirty,” but if you need more specific information for city hall, it’s not hard to find. The data shows that “When it comes to bird flu, diverse small-scale poultry farming is the solution, not the problem, and that “the key to protecting backyard poultry and people from bird flu is to protect them from industrial poultry and poultry products.” (My emphasis added.) In other words, making sure that we have the right to small flocks of backyard chickens is a way to protect ourselves and our communities from the very diseases they say they fear.

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Allowing families to keep small numbers of chickens as pets—because pets get good care and are closely monitored for health—is the best way to prevent diseases like avian flu or salmonella. Read more about commonsense biosecurity precautions on our website (HINT: you should do things like wash your hands, use clean equipment, buy from reputable hatcheries or breeders and so on–just like you would with other animals). You can also read about how salmonella is far more of a danger with factory farmed birds, too.

helen chavis September 15th, 2012

GREAT ARTICLE :D I’ve lived lots of places that chickens were not allowed. It is a shame that there are such narrow minded people out there. I had to move to the country to be able to get chickens now i have 28 chickens all different breeds, hens and roosters. LOVE my chickens

Rooster Beale October 3rd, 2012

raising chickens is part of the American culture and it is just too bad that we have cultivated such a large segment of society that just really can’t do anything but complain. They will eat the eggs and meat though.

SnowProfessor October 6th, 2012

Great article. I will be asking my city to allow chickens in the next month–this was really helpful and captures many concerns I have already heard from the city council.

One other frequently voiced concern is that backyard coops are unfair to the animals because people may not take good care of them and abandon chickens at animal shelters. This is the silliest argument to me—I care for a dog and two small children. It’s absurd that the government doubts my competence to care for a few chickens. Additionally, even a poorly maintained backyard coop is a FAR better life than an institutional chicken farm. If I don’t have my 5 hens, those 5 hens end up at an institutional farm ( I still need to get eggs somewhere).

Mary s. November 10th, 2012

Just 2 hens are enough to supply me and my neighbour with all the eggs we need! We both agreed to share costs for food and take turns with maintenance. We both have difficulties with auto immune disorders (rheumatoid arthritus, Fibromyalgia and severe allergies) and we discovered that NON commercial eggs made a huge difference, so now we also share a 12 x 12 garden and buy only locally farmed beef, lamb, and pork and it has made a HUGE difference in our wellness! 2 hens for 2 people! 2 families sharing the cost which is tiny! Much cheaper than my medications I USED TO have to take that also don’t recognize my voice and come running cooing at me when I approach them even from around the corner! The hens are sweet, gentle, and lay gorgeous easter egg coloured eggs. They are also endangered so we let them raise ONE ONLY family a YEAR and the chicks are always spoken for brfore they are even hatched! They are picked up at 3 or 4 days old to make sure they are healthy and the sale of the chicks pays for 2 months of the mom’s food at a minimum! So we are helping the endangered Favaucana chickens survival! The neighbourhood little kids LOVE the eggs, and think the Easter Bunny has a secret hideaway at our chickens house! The children love to play gently with the chickens, and bring them little jars of bugs that they save for after school treats for the birds. They also are learning how important it is to play gently and respect pets and animals OTHER than dogs and cats.
I can see NOTHING negative about our 2 beautiful, big, gentle, girls, other than they don’t live forever and it is heart breaking when one walks, gently cooing as always, over the rainbow bridge to wait for us!
I’m in BC Canada

Marcia H November 12th, 2012

Lissa,

Re Rebecca’s observation that phrases like “Don’t be silly” seem “dismissive”: The bottom line question is, “Do you want to win people over to your side, or do you want to put them in their place?” If the former, you want to minimize putting them on the defensive. Your counter arguments starting off “Not true . . .” and “The truth is . . .” are great examples of setting people straight without raising their hackles. If you maintain that tone throughout your discussion, you’re likely to get more converts.

Lissa November 12th, 2012

There are some people that feed off the delusion that their wishful thinking points-of-view deserve the same consideration as do facts, and that’s just not true. That being said, “Don’t be silly,” is about as mild a rebuke of that type that one can make. And if you can’t bear to hear (or read) “don’t be silly” after having taken a firm stand against backyard chickens without research into the facts or the support of any data, then you’re probably not going to change your mind no matter how many kisses I blow your way.

Kristen E. Martin January 8th, 2013

This may have been said already, but to quote Gene Logsdon: “The fact that zoning in towns allows residents to raise a barking, crapping dog the size of a small elephant, but not four hens for a steady fresh egg supply shows just how lacking commonsense we have become as a society.”

Chris January 13th, 2013

My health and happiness have diminished since my neighbors got chickens. They are loud and wake me up with first light. I hope my untimely death will make it all worth your while to promote this. We live on postage stamp sized lots.

Lissa January 15th, 2013

Speaking hyperbolically, are we? Well, unless you are consistent in your objections and also want to oppose the keeping of (louder-than-hen) dogs, etc., in your neighborhood, then–also speaking hyperbolically–it will almost certainly be worth my while!

Brena February 11th, 2013

Oh man, if i could afford to move to the country, I would.

Yizhen March 27th, 2013

I have had to say goodbye to my 6 hens because of city laws. Why can’t people see that chickens are sweet, giving animals with tons of personality and great pet? Anyway, most other common pets can’t make you fresh breakfast.

Aileen August 13th, 2013

Absolutely bloody brilliant blog post. Looking forward to using points 1 through 6. Thank you! :)

Linda Lovett August 17th, 2013

How can I send this article to my email address? I want to save it for future use and reference in my community. Thank you.

Lissa August 17th, 2013

The easiest way would probably be to cut and paste the URL into an email and send it to yourself.

Jay S. February 21st, 2014

I am planning on getting my chickens soon I live in Belvider,Illinois just like Lou T. Maybe we can help each other out with educating and helping people better understand why this is a good thing and not a nuisance. I would also like to know what Belvidere has to say about having a small flock. Thanks everybody

Lori February 25th, 2014

I am in hoa and

I appealed and they declined

I’m going to ask neighbors to sign petition
How do I draw up a petition?
Help me write up a good one to have neighbors sign to have chicken in my backyard.

Thank you!

Lissa February 26th, 2014

Hi Lori! So sorry to hear about your HOA problem. However, I think this is too large a question to answer very well in a comment. I’ll try to put a blog post together this week or next (2-28-14 or 3-7-14) on the subject for our blog. Keep your eyes open!

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