Pecking away at Geneva chicken question*CRAIG IS THE LOCAL BUSINESS MAN MENTIONED IN THIS ARTICLE
Periods of economic uncertainty make us think creatively about meeting our needs. We pick up generic brands more frequently. We’re more apt to drive a couple extra miles (and deal with the extra big crowds) to shop at a volume discount store. We’ll pick up whatever fruits and vegetables are on sale – because the other stuff seems so staggeringly expensive.
Geneva Alderman Paul DesCoteaux is also thinking on these lines and is proposing a couple of ways for Genevans to creatively supplement their personal food supply.
A community garden would clear a plot of land for residents, where they could grow fruits, veggies and even flowers. What a great idea. It works in other suburbs, where park district-run community garden plots are a hot ticket each planting season. Not everyone in Geneva has a back yard big enough for a vegetable garden. Or the light is bad. Or the soil is poor.
Gardening not only nourishes the body through its yield, but it also provides educational entertainment for the family. It’s safe to say we fully, enthusiastically support the concept of a community garden in Geneva.
The chickens are another matter.
DesCoteaux has gone out on a limb and proposed that Geneva change its laws to allow families to keep a couple of chickens in the yard.
The idea is not as radical as some suburbanites might think. Several states, including Wisconsin, Colorado, Washington, New Mexico and California allow “urban chickens,” meaning they allow chickens to be kept in more densely populated areas than their usual (at least stereotypically) country habitat.
It’s not as though your neighbor would be in his back yard preparing to kill a chicken for Sunday dinner – ordinances crafted in other places forbid slaughter, disallow roosters and mandate distance minimums between chicken houses and people houses.
In concept and in theory, we don’t oppose the idea of urban chickens – with restrictions. Chickens shouldn’t be smelled or heard by neighbors, for example. They would need to be secured in some type of enclosure. Chickens just wouldn’t be a good fit for a lot of neighborhoods in Geneva; how would the city decide where they could be and couldn’t be?
In practice, though, we don’t see chickens flying in Geneva.
Most folks in Geneva are still able to buy their eggs harvested, pasteurized, packaged and refrigerated at the local grocery store. And they still don’t mind paying a few bucks for all that labor. The economy may have us thinking about how to best stretch a dollar, but most of us are probably not prepared to begin raising our own food sources.
It’s an out-there idea for Geneva, but it shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand. Though it seems Mayor Kevin Burns has done just that:
“Any time a project benefits the community, it will receive all consideration and support,” Burns told a reporter this week. “But chickens? Really? I’m going to start raising cattle. I spent the last eight years with chickens. They’re called aldermen. They’re annoying, and they smell.”
DesCoteaux is bringing the ideas of a community garden and urban chickens to the city council at the suggestion of a local business owner. He is bringing these ideas in good faith and with sincerity. They deserve a mature, honest discussion free of sniping and sarcasm.