According to the USDA, Americans consume some 7.7 billion dozens of eggs per year. That’s about 288 eggs per person per year. There is little question that factory egg farms, with economies of scale, can produce cheap eggs. The trouble with factory egg farms is that their practices are not transparent and often secretive. There has been an ongoing movement to limit or ban videos of factory farms moving from state to state. Iowa, the largest egg producing state, passed legislation in 2012, making it more difficult for animal welfare advocates to sneak cameras into factory farms.
Because factory chickens must endure confined areas populated with pathogens from their own waste, chicken feeds are often created with drugs already in them. These practices have led many consumers to buy eggs from chickens that are free-range, organically fed, and not administered antibiotics. Moving chickens to urban areas also has some economic rationale. Food wastes at the grocery store and dinner table level are significant for fruits and vegetables – items that can provide part of a chicken’s diet. Letting chickens forage for bugs and insects around the yard also help – if you know what you are doing.
Urban egg producing has actually become a sizeable movement full of politics and activism. Towns and cities that have ordinances against chickens in backyards have been challenged and successfully overturned. This drama is captured in the film Mad City Chickens. The film follows the struggle of getting laws changed and spreading the practice of backyard chickens (see trailer below).
Knowledge of factory egg farm practices, while it has contributed to the backyard chicken movement, is not the only factor. For many urban chicken growers, it is about regaining control over food. It symbolizes the nation’s agricultural heritage and some nostalgia many folks remember about their grandparents. The movement even has its own magazine called Backyard Poultry.
Every year, Seattle Tilth hosts the Chicken Coop & Urban Farm Tour for those that want to see first-hand what it’s all about. The tour is Saturday, July 11, 2015. Seattle Tilth is an active inner-city organization that promotes and helps develop urban food production.
Internet backyard chicken resources:
- Urban chicken resource: http://madcitychickens.com
- Mad City Chickens film information http://www.tarazod.com/filmsmadchicks.html
- Technical support for urban chickens: http://www.backyardchickens.com
- Technical support for urban chickens: http://urbanchickens.org
- Urban chickens magazine: http://www.backyardpoultrymag.com
- Chicken Coop Tour: http://www.seattletilth.org/special_events/chickencoopurbanfarmtour