Feral urban chickens: A great idea?

The animal control department came, to a vacant lot on the 600 block of Pierce Street in South Philly, and got about 15 of 'em. Chickens are hard to catch, though, especially when there are more than 40 altogether; and they've been wild for a few years. So they took the ones they could, and threw up their hands on the rest.

You see, there was this hen. Her owner went to jail, and then there was this rooster. His owner doesn't live around South Pierce Street any more. But the chickens, and their considerable progeny, do.

Keeping chickens isn't legal in Philadelphia. In most cities, even those which allow urban chickens, roosters aren't permitted; they're noisy. They're often mean (especially when protecting their flocks). And they make lots, and lots, of baby chickens.

And so have these chickens. In a piece in the City Paper, Isaiah Thompson writes: "the chickens mate, they lay eggs, they find their own food, raise their own young." They roost in trees, they survive winter thanks to their hearty breeding, they evade capture by the authorities, they lay more eggs.

The residents of the neighborhood, who seem to like the chickens, surprisingly don't try to collect their eggs (I'm thinking there are some very happy raccoons and rats nearby). This surprises me, and also thrills. Wouldn't this be a great solution for wanna-be chicken keepers?

How could the city argue with a pack of wild chickens they, themselves, couldn't eradicate? Neighborhood residents could feed them kitchen scraps, hunt their eggs for free, nutritious food, and the gardens would benefit from nutrient-rich chicken manure.

I love the concept, and predict we'll see more of this in coming years, as the urban chicken craze reaches its natural saturation point. Not all of those chicken owners can be thoroughly responsible; not all baby chicks turn out to be hens; not all chickens will be eaten by raccoons before they learn to protect themselves.
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