Poulet… dans la ville!?!

Published 11:16 am Friday, March 13, 2015

Chickens, with a rooster to the left, in an enclosure in downtown Franklin. It’s not necessarily a good idea to keep poultry cooped up in a city. -- Cain Madden | Tidewater News

Chickens, with a rooster to the left, in an enclosure in downtown Franklin. It’s not necessarily a good idea to keep poultry cooped up in a city. — Cain Madden | Tidewater News

On Tuesday, a trip to Franklin’s City Hall became necessary. It was on newspapering business, but the reason is irrelevant to the scope of this article.

You see, on the way back to the car, a distinct sound could be heard. It was the unmistakable sound of a rooster crowing.

At first, nothing was thought of it. When one grows up in the country, a rooster crowing just becomes a natural part of life, part of the background noise. If one values sleeping until the last possible second in the morning, you grow accustomed to wearing earplugs. That way, when one gets out of bed and efficiently goes through his or her morning ritual, that person gets to work or school right on time with zero seconds to spare, or perhaps even a minute late. That’s consistency! Nevermind that there was no time for the brushing of one’s hair, while that important notebook, pen or even the computer are probably still on the desk. These things can’t be avoided.

Sometimes while doing stories out in the country, the familiar sound of a rooster can be heard, or the sight of chickens scrambling around for whatever they are after can be seen.

In Franklin, particularly right in the heart of downtown, that was a new sound. Raising the familiar farm fowl can be a good thing, especially if one is accustomed to fresh eggs and other chicken-related products. Doing this can also be a step toward self-efficiency, which is a great place to be for when the government inevitably brings down the economy. You can also make sure that you don’t stuff your poultry full of unnatural things, like many of the animal factories do. That’s certainly better for the chickens.

Unfortunately, despite a few pluses, the city is just not a great environment for poultry. Have you ever met a chicken that hasn’t eventually gotten out of its pen, no matter how well constructed it is? If you answered yes, then you haven’t been around enough chickens. A chicken could certainly get out of a pen while blindfolded, tied up and hovering above a lake of fire. You would only realize it’s out when you hear it clucking along behind you. How did it do it? Well, like any great magician, a chicken doesn’t tell its secrets.

The only way to really keep them in is to be extremely inhumane, which isn’t good for the bird. And if they aren’t being kept in, the traffic volume downtown is not exactly good for them. Despite the common riddle, the chicken probably will not make it to the other side of High or Main Street.

Then there are other people. In the country, the nearest neighbor might be a mile away. If that person is outside and there aren’t a lot of trees, they will probably still hear it, if faintly.

The next nearest neighbor, maybe 2-3 miles away, perhaps not. If a rooster crows and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?

The city is a different story. According to the U.S. Census, there are 1,045 people per square mile in Franklin. That’s an average, too, so there are perhaps more jammed near the downtown area. Even if your property is zoned for agriculture, good luck not starting a feud with at least a few fellow denizens. People who raise chickens in the country sometimes have trouble with neighbors complaining and plotting vengeance. That’s only going to be intensified in the city.

Of course, if you live in Franklin, particularly downtown, then your property is not zoned for agriculture. And neighbors are complaining to city officials, who are citing and fining multiple people, not just the owner of the enclosure near City Hall. Yes, there is a chicken epidemic in Franklin.

So, if raising fowl has ever crossed your mind, please think of the chickens. If you want to raise them, do it in the country where they have room to roam; where they don’t have to have a panic attack as each car zooms by their coops — chickens are not known for being calm creatures; where they don’t have to worry about another human sabotaging their enclosures — or worse; and where you won’t get fined.

That way, we can keep this epidemic from becoming an outright poultry pox.

CAIN MADDEN is the managing editor of The Tidewater News. He can be reached at cain.madden@tidewaternews.com or 562-3187.