I realized that it was time to send a letter to the local newspaper regarding the reasons I wanted to have chickens, and address some of the concerns people were voicing about chickens. The letter as follows:
The Coronado City Council will make a decision about whether to change the current ordinance to allow hobby hens in Coronado at their December 6, 2011 council meeting. I have kept the subject “punny” in my two speeches to city council in the last few months and have thoroughly enjoyed the responses that my two hens, named the Snowflakes, have brought forth from my fellow citizens. Almost all of the responses I’ve heard have been positive, but I know there are residents who are not keen on the idea of having chickens in Coronado. Everything has potential to be a problem, but the Optimist in me knows there is a solution to every problem. What are the obstacles and how do we address them? I thought it time to address some of the concerns that have been stated.
When I first entertained the idea of having some hens on my property, I was made aware of the City of Coronado’s ordinance, but decided to move ahead because the response I received from the city was, that as long as no one wrote a written complaint, the ordinance wouldn’t be enforced. I was pretty certain a complaint would be written by a concerned citizen. I also knew that every other city in San Diego County has addressed the issue of having hens on private property so I decided that when the complaint happened, I would take it to City Council. A written complaint was eventually made, I went before the city council, council enforced the ordinance, and we removed our chickens and coop. The chickens have moved off our property to a chicken safe house and are being well tended by a fellow friend of fowl.
Some of the issues that seem to be of concern are bacteria, disease, rats, flies, odor, noise and property values. Because the health of my hens was important to me, just as the health of all my pets is important, I educated myself on the proper care of my hens. I am as concerned as anybody about not endangering my family’s health and I don’t like flies, so, as a responsible pet owner, I cleaned the coop daily, twice if necessary, and made sure the hens had fresh food and water, and clean straw for bedding . I used tools dedicated only to the chicken coop so as not to spread any bacteria to my food crops, wore a dedicated pair of rubber clogs, and always wore nitrile gloves in the coop in case I had cuts on my hands which, being an active gardener, is usually the case. Once a month I spread diatomaceous earth in the straw bedding and around the coop to keep little buggy critters at bay.
The eggs I collected were always washed as soon as I brought them into the house. I have shared eggs with most of the neighbors, friends and family who seemed excited to be the receivers of these precious little gifts. Nothing compares to a really fresh egg, and I have a heightened appreciation for the work that is required to get my Snowflakes to drop their eggs every day. We’d do well to teach our children where their food really comes from and what is involved to make it happen. Certainly you can’t grasp that process standing in a grocery store in front of a refrigerator stacked to the top with dozens of eggs.
I have heard concerns that rats would be attracted to chicken coops, but my cats aren’t catching any more rats now than before I brought the Snowflakes home. The Snowflakes were never allowed to roam free. They eat everything and would decimate my garden. They would chase my cats and be chased by my dog. Possums are natural predators to chickens and will kill them while they are sleeping. The neighborhood hawk already kills little birds at my feeders and would love a chance to get bigger prey. Nature in action, but the Snowflakes were safe in their coop.
In regard to noise, the Snowflakes are hens, not roosters. Sure, they make some noise, but nothing compared a squawking parrot, barking dog or the resident crows that hang out in my big tree. Why is it okay for a neighbor to own large dogs, or have a dog that barks constantly, but it’s not okay for me to have a few hens that are producing food for my family? In regard to property values, anyone who had visited the Snowflakes knows that the chicken coop was artfully created, complete with a viewing window that I found in an alley. The rest of the yard is a messy, bohemian collection of raised beds, potted plants, and garden art, which suits me just fine. Definitely not a tidy lawn but there’s no ordinance against that. I am a Master Gardener and have followed the philosophy of local food for quite a while. San Diego County is leading the charge in growing local food and has the largest number of farms of any county in the United States. Just because I don’t live on open farmland, doesn’t mean I’m not interested and shouldn’t be able to grow my own food. With water being a precious commodity in drought stricken Southern California, I feel accomplished in that I use my water judiciously to grow food instead of watering a lawn for aesthetic purposes. My goal this year has been to eat something from my garden every day whether it is blueberries, strawberries, apples, melons, herbs, eggplant, squash or eggs, and I’ve been pretty successful, thanks to the Snowflakes.
It’s time to address the issue of hobby hens for the Coronado resident. The current ordinance regarding chickens is outdated and needs to be revised to fit today’s social climate. I would like to see common sense applied to this issue. Allow up to three hens (they are social animals), NO ROOSTERS, acceptable chicken coop parameters including a minimum requirement of footage from residential dwellings that is realistic for Coronado lot sizes.
Thank you to the City of Coronado, Mayor Tanaka and City Council for your time in addressing this issue in Coronado. SAVE THE SNOWFLAKES!!!
Respectfully, Leslie Crawford aka ‘The Chicken Lady of Coronado’