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.  


    Steve Baragona

    Steve Baragona is an award-winning multimedia journalist covering science, environment and health.

    He spent eight years in molecular biology and infectious disease research before deciding that writing about science was more fun than doing it. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a master’s degree in journalism in 2002.

    You May Like

    Hope Remains for Rio Olympic Games

    Facing a host of problems, Rio prepares for holding the games but experts say some risks, like Zika, may not be as grave as initially thought

    IS Use of Social Media to Recruit, Radicalize Still a Top Threat to US

    Despite military gains against IS in Iraq and Syria, their internet propaganda still commands an audience; US officials see 'the most complex challenge that the federal government and industry face'

    ‘Time Is Now’ to Save Africa’s Animals From Poachers, Activist Says

    During Zimbabwe visit, African Wildlife Foundation President Kaddu Sebunya says poaching hurts Africa as slave trade once did

    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.
    Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolatei
    X
    July 29, 2016 4:02 PM
    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Ivorian Chocolate Makers Promote Locally-made Chocolate

    Ivory Coast is the world's top producer of cocoa but hardly any of it is processed into chocolate there. Instead, the cocoa is sent abroad to chocolate makers in Europe and elsewhere. This is a general problem throughout Africa – massive exports of raw materials but few finished goods. As Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, several Ivorian entrepreneurs are working to change that formula - 100 percent Ivorian chocolate bar at a time.
    Video

    Video Tesla Opens Battery-Producing Gigafactory

    Two years after starting to produce electric cars, U.S. car maker Tesla Motors has opened the first part of its huge battery manufacturing plant, which will eventually cover more than a square kilometer. Situated close to Reno, Nevada, the so-called Gigafactory will eventually produce more lithium-ion batteries than were made worldwide in 2013. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Polio-affected Afghan Student Fulfilling Her Dreams in America

    Afghanistan is one of only two countries in the world where children still get infected by polio. The other is Pakistan. Mahbooba Akhtarzada who is from Afghanistan, was disabled by polio, but has managed to overcome the obstacles caused by this crippling disease. VOA's Zheela Nasari caught up with Akhtarzada and brings us this report narrated by Bronwyn Benito.
    Video

    Video Hillary Clinton Promises to Build a 'Better Tomorrow'

    Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton urged voters Thursday not to give in to the politics of fear. She vowed to unite the country and move it forward if elected in November. Clinton formally accepted the Democratic Party's nomination at its national convention in Philadelphia. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more.
    Video

    Video Trump Tones Down Praise for Russia

    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is toning down his compliments for Russia and Vladimir Putin as such rhetoric got him in trouble recently. After calling on Russia to find 30.000 missing emails from rival Hillary Clinton, Trump told reporters he doesn't know Putin and never called him a great leader, just one who's better than President Barack Obama. Putin has welcomed Trump's overtures, but, as Zlatica Hoke reports, ordinary Russians say they are not putting much faith in Trump.
    Video

    Video Uganda Unveils its First Solar-powered Bus

    A solar-powered bus described by its Ugandan makers as the first in Africa has made its public debut. Kiira Motors' electric bus, Kayoola, displayed recently at a stadium in Uganda's capital. From Kampala, Maurice Magorane filed this report narrated by Salem Solomon.
    Video

    Video Silicon Valley: More Than A Place, It's a Culture

    Silicon Valley is a technology powerhouse and a place that companies such as Google, Facebook and Apple call home. It is a region in northern California that stretches from San Francisco to San Jose. But, more than that, it's known for its startup culture. VOA's Elizabeth Lee went inside one company to find out what it's like to work in a startup.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora