Rural Beasts

The Chicken Monster.

I was in Missoula the other day, and I overheard this boy talking to his mother. Their conversation went something like this:

Boy: "Where do you think all those chicken feathers came from?"
Mother: "I think it was something that flew in; a hawk or something."

Let's contrast that conversation with one that recently occurred in Great Falls:

Neighbor against a woman who has chickens: "We see chickens across our fence and can hear them cackle."
City planning board member: "I think chickens are a rural beast. I don't think chickens belong in Great Falls."

Missoula is a city where long ago they determined that chickens in the city just might be okay - the sky wouldn't fall. Great Falls (and even our little rural agricultural town of Conrad) is a city that has recently decided that chickens are rural beasts and have no place amidst urban civility.

What gets me most about all of this, is that some seem hell-bent on separating agriculture from daily life. Food comes from somewhere else - definitely not from our neighbors' back yards. Something happens out there somewhere else, then it magically appears in our grocery stores at our convenience, neatly packed in groups of 12. Whether it's intentional or not, they end up distancing people from the source of their food. There is no reason why food cannot happen in a city, in abandoned lots, on rooftops, in backyards. And yes, chickens are part of making food happen.

And by the way, I'll fully support bans on those rural beasts in cities just as soon as dogs start laying eggs.


  1. Amen . . . although living in Portland it's easier to say that since we have, thanks now to Portlandia, a reputation for backyard chicken coops and their occupants.
    My mother used to teach a program about pioneers for a museum. She would go to classrooms and talk about how pioneers lived. She had many props, one of which was a butter churn. She would always ask kids where butter comes from. My favorite answer she ever received . . . "from bumble bees". Talk about separation from the source of your food.

  2. Here in Baltimore we're allowed to have chickens in our backyards, and some people in our neighborhood do. I wonder whether cities that resist "rural beasts" have urban insecurity issues so go to greater lengths to prove their street cred. Maybe if Great Falls had lots more gang tags the city burghers would feel okay about chickens.


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