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Chickens in Waynesboro: The sky is not falling

waynesboroWaynesboro seems to be adopting the solution in search of a problem approach to the presence of backyard chickens in the city.

A report in the News Leader last week had the city receiving 18 complaints related to chickens, roughly one every month and a half.

And the complaints weren’t what you’d expect them to be: namely, roosters crowing at the crack of dawn.

Just two of the complaints in the past two years were noise complaints.

So, the solution to the non-problem being considered by Waynesboro City Council, naturally, bans roosters.

Which, fine. Roosters tend to crow to warn their hens of danger, like cats or snakes, but, get rid of them, because of two complaints in two years.

The ordinance under review also set limits for the number of hens one could have, banned the sale of eggs and would require chickens to be housed no closer than 20 feet from water, streams, sewers and ditches.

So, two complaints about noise, 15 complaints about loose chickens, already covered under an existing city ordinance.

The other complaint had to do with concern about a chicken’s welfare.

Yeah, we need a new law.

People who keep chickens do so for the eggs, out of concern for their diets. With our increasing awareness of how what we put into our bodies affects our daily well-being, this is something that should be considered a natural right.

Now, me, I’m still lazy with my food, buying what I need at the grocery store, getting what I need from Big Agriculture, ignoring reports about the use of steroids and chemicals and other stuff that is certainly going to take a few months, at least, off the end of my life.

Those who want to take control of their diets, more power to ‘em, I say.

That said, if the issue were noise, sure, we should be able to do something about it.

I say that conceding that the fact that there are just two complaints on record in the past two years doesn’t necessarily reflect the entirety of reality.

I note that because I think of my own situation. I have a next-door neighbor who puts her small dog outside every morning at 6 a.m. and leaves him outside, barking incessantly, for as long as an hour, and as much as I curse her very existence for doing so, I’ve not filed any kind of complaint.

I also have a neighbor who burns his trash several days a week, in violation of city ordinance, and my lifelong struggle with asthma.

Point being, people don’t always call when there’s an issue, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t an issue.

But if they don’t call, flip side, how much of an issue are we really talking about here?

The solution to the neighbor dog is a loud box fan that covers up the sound most mornings. The burning trash is a little tougher, but do you really call the police over burning trash?

Same token, do you really need to call police over a rooster?

For now, at least, City Council is holding off on the chicken issue, pulling the ordinance written up to deal with the non-issue last month, but with the proviso that city leaders are still looking at what might need to be done.

Here’s some advice on that: leave well enough alone.

Column by Chris Graham