Rezoning for Backyard Poultry?
I’m providing this email to Civic Association leaders and newsletter editors to provide a counterpoint on the issue of easing restrictive zoning on backyard poultry. Arlington’s Egg Project proponents have been advocating changes to the zoning ordinance that currently requires all livestock and poultry be kept 100 foot from property lines. While our well meaning friends at the Egg Project have visited a number of civic associations marketing the idea of fresh eggs from backyards, their audiences haven’t been provided with both sides of the backyard egg story.
If the County Board should change the setback ordinance for poultry, the presence of backyard chickens will impact neighbors, add pollutants to storm runoff and introduce a new source of salmonella to our environment, while not offering the gains in sustainability being claimed. The County Board has created a taskforce to study “Urban Agriculture” and make recommendations to them. Since the Task Force didn’t include a Civic Federation representative in this group, that’s why I introduced a resolution at the last CivFed meeting opposing changing the residential zoning code - so the Civic Federation’s collective civic voices will be heard clearly and early enough to affect the outcome.
This resolution comes before the Civic Federation this week for a vote. Your Civic Federation delegates need to be informed about both sides of this issue. First - to be fair, here’s a link to the Arlington Egg Project. I’d urge you to read what they are advocating and why.
Here’s why many of us are concerned:
1. Fresh eggs? Admittedly, locally raised eggs may taste better. But isn’t that why we have two, now three farmer’s markets each week in Arlington so you can buy fresh eggs without buying the chickens, coops, feed, and deal with the waste byproducts?
2. Sustainability? It takes two pounds of feed to produce a pound of eggs (see Nutrition) . That means twice the transportation energy costs. The alternative is to supplement chicken feed with food waste, available bugs and backyard grass. That means you’ll have garbage lying in your back yard, fewer bugs for local birds, possums, and rodents to feed on and bare soil where the lawn used to be.
3. Home grown eggs are healthier? The Centers for Disease Control has published a report warning about the presence of Salmonella in residentially raised chickens. The chicks quite often arrive infected, the waste in the yard will contain Salmonella and your eggs will be coated with it. Unless you lace the chicken feed with antibiotics or you wash the eggs in detergent and bleach (they will lose that “fresh taste”), you will risk bacterial infections that CDC says are dangerous to young children and seniors. Here’s a link to the CDC article. It’s fact, not fiction.