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Forum Editorial: Go ahead, Moorhead, let people keep a few chickens in their backyard

Fargo has allowed backyard chickens for years with nary a peep. Lots of Minnesota cities, large and small, allow the practice. Moorhead should give residents the option.

Editorial FSA
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In spite of some clucking from a couple of skeptics, the Moorhead City Council seems prepared to allow people to raise chickens in their backyards.

There doesn't seem to be a huge upwelling of residents who want to raise chickens in their backyards, but the practice has slowly been spreading in Minnesota in recent years. Nationally, backyard chicken raising has spiked since the start of the pandemic.

Some at-home chicken keepers say their chickens are almost like pets, with some reporting they eat out of their hands.

In other parts of the country, keeping backyard chickens has become so popular that a small industry has taken wing. In some areas of the country, you can even rent a bird through businesses like RentACoop and Rent The Chicken.

Fargo allows up to four hens in residential areas, and the chickens haven't raised any squawks. Fargo’s ordinance, revised in 2017 following some complaints, bans roosters chickens in front yards.

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The ordinance sets standards for coops, which have to be predator proof, and imposes an annual $10 permit fee.

The Moorhead ordinance received its first reading on Monday, Dec. 12, with two dissenting votes. If passed, it would allow up to six hens and would prohibit chicken breeding or slaughtering within the city. One breed of ducks also would be allowed under the ordinance, which is modeled on Fargo’s.

The idea of permitting chickens has been debated in Moorhead for at least the last four years, but so far hasn’t won approval, but advocates keep pecking away.

Proponents note that Fargo’s backyard chicken ordinance hasn’t caused a stir, and say few problems can be expected if Moorhead follows suit.

Elsewhere in Minnesota, at least 17 cities allow backyard chickens , including Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth and Rochester. At least two Minnesota cities have cried fowl and banned the practice: Hopkins and South St. Paul.

The surprising popularity of backyard chickens is part of the broader consumer embrace of healthy foods, including organic produce.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even provides tips for raising backyard chickens in a healthy manner , advising do-it-yourself growers to thoroughly wash their hands right after touching poultry.

Whether it's merely a passing fad or the start of a lasting trend, it’s clear that many cities are allowing backyard chickens with few problems. What was the last time you heard anybody in Fargo complaining about chickens in somebody’s backyard?

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So don’t chicken out, Moorhead: Go ahead and join the flock to allow a little bit of rustic barnyard charm in your neighborhoods.

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