Keeping chickens is a growing trend in the city and in the country in this 21st century. I've seen it especially grow rapidly in popularity since 2010.
Over the past few years, many cities have passed 'chicken ordinances' so that citizens are legally permitted to keep a small flock of laying hens.
Of course, I find it odd that people forget they were legally allowed in the first place, until someone passed laws saying they weren't. You know, suburbs, the idea of keeping up property values and appearances became more important than providing some of your food for your family and community.
People Used to be Food Producers, Rather than Consumers Only
It wasn't that long ago (in history terms a several decades) that a few hens on a city homestead was a common thing.
Yup, it's been about 100 years:
1. since the common man didn't have family ownership of automobiles. It was uncommon.
2. since the common man didn't have electrical usage at home. It was uncommon.
And, it's been about 60 years
1. since the common man often had hens at home. It was common.
Only 100 years ago there were only 55 electrical transmission systems in the U.S. and they were primarily metro downtown or industrial areas and not originally used by households for family use.
Likewise, mainstream household use of automobiles didn't boom until after WWII.
Families and communities keeping small livestock and growing a good portion of their own (and their community produce) has been around for centuries.
The mindset of 'prohibiting' it is only recent history. It's a 60-100 year blip, that people are beginning to realize - isn't necessarily a good idea.
The Post-WWII Shift Toward Corporate Everything
Seems that the men & women of WWII who sacrificed to fight the 'centralized everything' goverment philosophy (Totalitarian Axis Powers of WWII) came home victorious, and started bit-by-bit handing parts of their daily life over to companies that offered services that made their lives simpler. Transportation, home energy, education, food - all had been more homebrewed or community sourced prior to WWII - but after... let the corporations do it.
It's only been about sixty years since after WWII and the rapid growth of automobiles and suburbs and widespread establishment of "supermarkets" and their self-serve grocery model became the modern way of forgetting where food came from.
But recently regional food systems are beginning to grow again, whether it be households having small flocks of chickens (or other livestock and gardens and orchards) or subscribing to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and going to farmer's markets.
21st Century Decentralization Movement: From Internet, Energy, Food
There seems to be a movement of decentralization of food, and a crowdsourcing of food, like there is a decentralization and crowdsourcing of information via the internet and it's various platforms, such as social media and devices such as tablets and smartphones.
Just like a lot of big media and tech corporations aren't sure what to do with this grassroots aspect of technology and media, the big agribusiness (not agri-culture in my book) and big food (both mainly owned/influenced/controlled by big pharmaceutical companies) aren't sure what do to maintain their grip on local food movements.
Of course, we've seen headlines about GMOs being safe. But isn't it only well-financed corporate labs that can produce genetically modified foods and have well financed propaganda machines to keep people buying corporate food rather than locally or regionally sourced food?
The Empire Strikes Back (at the Colonists)
And isn't it those same corporations who are funding lobbyists to fight labelling laws nationally and state-to-state.
The powers that be seem to believe food producers (1) MUST protect consumers by documenting how they're grown and must be certified to be ORGANIC (free of GMOs and pesticides, loosely), but that food producers (2) CAN'T AFFORD to label food as Genetically Modified.
On one hand: it seems the 'food system' is weighted against any non-corporate food grower by requiring them to have standards and labelled for product the producers want to claim as "ORGANIC" meaning that their foods aren't GMO or sprayed with chemical pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers.
On the other hand: it seems that any pharmaceutical company backed (1) agribusiness - GMO grower or (2) food processor (of GMO foods) is legally protected against being required to label their experimental foods and poisons - under the guide they can't afford the cost of such labelling.
Interestingly, the generally population's buying habits seem to favor 'cleaner' foods. Fewer chemicals. Less genetic tinkering.
The corporations are doing what they can to maintain their control and market share, including smearing those who disagree with them.
It's like an Empire striking back at those who are choosing alternatives that aren't pleasing to the empire.
Chickens are a Model of that Bigger Fight
Local citizens re-discovering and managing a part of their foodsystem is a part of the grass-roots movement that undermines a small part of the corporate grasp.
It also flies in the face of the post-WWII mindset that chickens don't belong in town and letting farms and supermakets are the 'right places' to perform those roles of providing food.
(Watch some of the old Ma & Pa Kettle movies to get a glimpse of early days of undertones of suburban arrogance when encountering a sloppy livestock keeper/homeowner.)
You may not care about the bigger picture, and you may just want fresh eggs (1 day old) rather than old eggs from a supermarket shelf (more than 1 day old).
You may just like watching chickens as they scratch, cluck, run around. They are highly entertaining and at times - hilarious.
You may just want a hobby for your kids to grow their ability to handle responsiblity.
You may just want to do something unique (or trendy, depending on your view).
You may just be a learner.
But, regardless of your personal reasons - chickens seem to be as controversial as stealing intellectual property.
Part of it is a forgotten American culture of our rights to pursue happiness - pursuit of make food choices other than what is 'convenient' or 'artificially cheap - despite costs of potential health risks'
Another part of it is the intellectual property of pharmaceutical companies backing agribusiness companies that supply mega-food processing companies with (intellectual property) Genetically Modified crops, and proprietary recipes for making addictive tasting, questionably nutritious edible substances that end up in restaurants and supermarkets. Some people call it food. I used to, and often still do.
But I know there are options. Partly thanks to chickens.
And that's just part of the food-system pecking-order.