Moorhead, Minn., residents cry fowlTwo years ago, Dave Gorman thought the entire neighborhood had flown over the cuckoo’s nest. A West Fargo couple was on the news wanting chickens in their backyard, and Gorman couldn’t believe it.
By: By Erik Burgess , Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
MOORHEAD, Minn. — Two years ago, Dave Gorman thought the entire neighborhood had flown over the cuckoo’s nest.
A West Fargo couple was on the news wanting chickens in their backyard, and Gorman couldn’t believe it.
“I thought ‘God, there’s a bunch of weirdos in town,’” the Moorhead man recalled.
Well, now Gorman has joined the flock.
The 37-year-old husband and father of four is one of many residents in Moorhead who have recently contacted their City Council members about changing city code to allow hens within city limits.
“Now I’m one of those weirdos,” Gorman said. “I guess I’m more educated about it than I was a few years ago.”
Moorhead does not allow chickens — among a barnyard of other animals including horses, cattle and pigs — within city limits.
“Moorhead’s ordinances define chickens as livestock and raising livestock is not permitted within city limits. It’s kind of as simple as that,” said Lisa Vatnsdal, neighborhood services manager.
That’s something Gorman, along with a few other residents, hope to change.
The urban chicken movement has legs with today’s generation, said Abby Gold, a North Dakota State University assistant professor and extension specialist in public health.
“People now are really realizing, not just for financial reasons but also for health reasons, that they can really control their food intake a lot more if they’re able to at least grow some of their own food.” Gold said.
The pro-chicken push in 2010 failed in West Fargo, where raising the feathered fowl remains illegal.
Fargo, however, has allowed raising chickens in the city since 1952. And Casselton, N.D., as well as Fergus Falls, Minn., and St. Paul and Minneapolis all allow some hens within city limits. All the cities ban the raising of roosters, due to the morning crowing.
Beyond controlling the source of food, Gorman said owning chickens will allow him to teach his children the origin of food.
“As you go down that path, inevitably you can only do so much with a garden,” he said. “Being able to have them raise chickens, raise hens would be a nice thing.”
Gold and Gorman said two major concerns naysayers tend to have is they think chickens live in smelly coops and are noisy.
But both of them said, if handled properly, hens can be quieter than dogs and cleaner, too.
“If you’re going to poorly raise any animal, that’s going to have negative consequences,” Gorman said.
Moorhead resident Kye Anderson, 25, said as a child, he would visit his grandpa’s coops in rural Moorhead, where he raised around 60,000 laying hens.
“There are many things in the city that are allowed that are way more noisy than a laying hen such as dogs or mufflers on certain cars or motorcycles or bands practicing in garages,” he said.
A Facebook group — Moorhead for Urban Chickens — has been started in support of the effort. Gorman said he has also considered starting a petition.
City Council would have to amend the ordinance to take chickens off the animal blacklist, Vatnsdal said.
Councilman Luther Stueland, who said he has received a few chicken requests this year, said he’ll be spending some time contacting other council members in an attempt to open up discussion about the proposal.
“It’s not something that’s burning the town down, so we’ll be smart about it and make sure that we’re taking care of priorities,” he said.
Erik Burgess is a reporter
at The Forum of Fargo-
Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.