After lots of squawking, Nashville’s Metro Council recently passed a new Chicken Law that could set a precedent in other growing urban areas.
Citizens are allowed to keep a limited number of chickens in their yard.
It was a heated debate, the feathers were flying, and several law-makers abstained from voting. You could say they chickened out.
And even though the Chicken Law passed, egged on by supporters, there are certain poultry provisions. No roosters, for example, are allowed (a blatant case of gender discrimination.)
The theory is that roosters have a tendency to crow, especially around sunrise, and those feathered alarm clocks create a nuisance for neighbors. On the other hand it’s perfectly legal for a neighbor to unleash his/her howling mutt in the backyard any time of day.
After all the debating was over and the final decision announced, some interesting fine print was disclosed: politicians passed the Chicken Law – but tacked on a $25 annual Chicken Tax.
We might have known. Politicians would allow someone to keep a herd of water buffalo in their back yard if they saw an opportunity to rake in a few extra bucks in taxes.
Having closely followed the Great Chicken Debate, I remain conflicted. I’m not sure where I stand on the issue. On one hand I support every individual’s right to life, liberty and fresh eggs.
On the other hand I remember what a chicken coop smells like in steamy late-summer when it begins to percolate and hiss and sizzle. You wouldn’t want to spread a picnic blanket down-wind of one.
As every farm boy knows, a chicken coop in hot weather puts a hog-lot to shame. If there’s a chicken coop near the pig pen, you’ll see the hogs holding their noses and fanning themselves.
Chickens can indeed be foul fowl, and I can understand why an urbanite might not care to have a flock roosting next to his or her luxury condo and hot tub, with all the attendant barnyard sounds and smells.
But there’s no denying that chickens are culturally important. They have played significant roles in literature (Chicken Little, The Little Red Hen) and songwriter Roger Miller once asked, “How can a chicken eat all the time and stay so thin in the face?”
Could civilization have advanced to this point without Chicken McNuggets and Colonel Sanders’ secret recipes?
Without chickens, how would we know not to put all our eggs in one basket?
Such contributions to humanity haven’t been exactly chicken feed.
Like many of today’s problems, the Chicken Debate was hatched by over-crowding – too many people packed into a confined neighborhood.
Remember the famous sociological experiment that studied the effect of over-crowding on rats? When there were only a few rats in a box they got along fine. But as more and more rats were added to the box, tensions built and they began to fuss and fight and squabble over who got to operate the TV remote control. You can imagine the uproar if some of the rats wanted to raise chickens.
That’s what causes most of the problems in modern society: too many rats in the box.
I suppose the Chicken Debate was resolved about as well as possible, although before the winners start crowing they might want to wait and see how things go when hot weather arrives.
I’m sure if the odor gets too bad the politicians will take their usual wise steps to address it: they’ll pass a Stinkin’ Tax.