News / Health

Washington DC Residents Lobby to Raise Chickens on Capitol Hill

Concerns over industrialized food system prompt supporters of locally-raised poultry

Local food proponents or 'locavores,' want to raise backyard chickens in Washington, DC.
Local food proponents or 'locavores,' want to raise backyard chickens in Washington, DC.

Multimedia

Audio

Washington, D.C., home to presidents, senators, ambassadors, and — if some residents have their way — urban chicken farmers.

These poultry pioneers are part of a growing movement of Americans who are promoting local production as an alternative to the country's industrialized food system.

But not everyone in Washington thinks chickens will make good neighbors.

Chickens on Capitol Hill

Amanda Cundiff raises three Rhode Island Red hens behind her modest yellow townhouse just a few kilometers from the U.S. Capitol.

While backyard poultry are a common sight in the developing world, they're hardly ever seen in America, where most chickens are raised on large commercial farms.

Click to Listen:

Download/Play Audio File


Cundiff grew up outside Los Angeles, California, but says she has a special history with chickens.

"I grew up in a city with a backyard with a chicken in it named Henrietta," she says. "So it didn't ever seem like a funny thing to me to have chickens in the city."

Washington resident Amanda Cundiff consumes fresh eggs from the chickens she raises in her backyard.
Washington resident Amanda Cundiff consumes fresh eggs from the chickens she raises in her backyard.

Local food movement

Cundiff's three birds eat table scraps. Their manure makes ideal compost for her garden. And she says her chickens lay the freshest eggs imaginable — great for scrambling, straight from the backyard.

Cundiff and her backyard eggs reflect a growing trend in America. Concerns over food safety and the environmental and health impacts of industrial agriculture are on the rise. So, many people like Cundiff are seeking out locally grown or organic food, or growing it themselves.

"I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be growing our own food," she says, "even when we live in cities. I think it's really important to be connected to where our food comes from and not just think it comes from a supermarket."

Chickens and the law

Cundiff is not the only Washington, D.C. resident who wants to raise her own chickens. But city laws say chicken coops must be at least 15 meters away from any human residence. Cundiff's backyard is big enough, but most are not.

One of her neighbors, who was also raising poultry in her backyard, didn't know she was violating city laws until an unknown passerby saw the chickens.

"The person who was walking by reported my neighbor to the police," she says. "Animal control came and took their chickens."

"Nuts"

So Cundiff and her neighbor took the issue to City Hall. They won the support of D.C. City Councilman Tommy Wells.

But Wells says it took some persuading. "I thought it was nuts," he says. "But other cities are doing it."

Several towns and cities across the United States have recently made it easier for residents to keep backyard chickens. Even New York City has less restrictive laws than Washington, D.C.

What will the neighbors think?

But some in Washington don't think chickens belong in the city. Ted Knutson is a reporter living in the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

"People live in the rural areas to get away from the noise of heavy traffic. Vice versa, people live in the city to get away from rural things," he says.

Knutson says he's concerned that the chicken waste might spread disease and attract rodents.

But Councilman Wells says under his proposal, neighbors don't need to worry.

"There hasn't been shown to be much of a health risk at all. In fact, the regulations are so tightly written that you have to be inspected once a year by the health department."

And if a neighbor wants to raise chickens, Wells's bill would allow any resident within 30 meters to veto them.

Chicken politics

But Ted Knutson and other residents unhappy about living close to livestock warn that Wells welcomes country chickens to the city at his political peril.

"I would vote against him for that. I just think it is an idea far out in left field."

Knutson doesn't have to worry just yet about chickens moving in next door. The proposal is stuck between the health department and the city council, and these days, the council has other priorities.

So, for the time being, Amanda Cundiff is one of the few in this city eating eggs laid in the shadow of the nation's capitol.  

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid