Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Green Roofs, Backyards and Hens in Jacksonville - An Ordinance Change.

Rooftop Urban Ag is coming.  I am seeing more and more rooftop beekeeping and of course, pigeons have long occupied building tops, along with other birds and fowl.  As always, Europe is light years ahead of us here in Florida with respect to hens on the roof.  Except for Nichole & Matt.

Chickens too could be integrated into balconies, across roofs and especially on planted, living roofs.

Be sure to check out this really cool website discussing Green Roofs for chicken coops and the 'Omlet' Coop design.

There is a really strong grassroots urban agriculture movement happening here in Jacksonville and in other cities across the U.S.

Of course, I am working to design a cool (temperature-wise) rooftop coop capable of withstanding hurricanes.

We are asking everyone for their help in legalizing fresh eggs for our families.

So I thought today we'd look at a few FAQ's concerning hens and dispel a few rumors and misconceptions about hens, and clarify a few others.

Here in Jacksonville, backyard hens are not allowed under present code.  This doesn't mean they don't exist.  In fact, Jacksonville has a rather large domestic hen population.  Chickens are literally found in every neighborhood, rich and poor.

If you want to follow our efforts like the Facebook Page or sign the petition located here (HensInJax)!

Here a few questions I normally hear when people start discussing backyard hens.

Jacksonville Backyard Hens FAQs.

Are roosters required to  make eggs?

Nope!  Fresh hen eggs are healthy to eat, a good source of protein and important to feeding the urban core residents.  We get four to five eggs per week per hen (eggs without hormones and other drugs).  The eggs you buy in the store may be months old.  Backyard or rooftop hens allow for daily freshness.

Are backyard hens noisy?

Roosters are loud, however we are proposing to prohibit roosters under the ordinance we are writing.

I think hens are quiet but chatty creatures.  Listen in on ours during egg laying sessions.

Are backyard hens dirty? Foul fowl?

Depends on the caretaker.  Is your dog dirty?  Is your cat dirty?  All depends on how well you care for your animals.  I find hens are exceptionally clean, much cleaner than dogs or cats.  And they are the very best at catching pest bugs hiding in the yard for snacks.  I see no termites, roaches, flies or ants in our coop!  Got rooftop bugs?  Turn the hens loose...

Do coops or hens smell?

Nope.  But I keep mine clean as we do with our dog's rug.

Do we  propose to let hens run free?

As a pet or backyard hen owner you are responsible for keeping all your animals in your yard.

Do hens attack?

Hens are extremely docile creatures.  They like to be petted.

How long do hens live?

Typically a couple years up to six or so.

Do they attract rodents or raccoons?

Processed food attracts rodents, including compost scraps, or dog and cat food.  If you have a moveable hen tractor type coop then the birds can keep your lawn mowed instead of using lots of processed food.  Keep the food areas clean!  Rodents and raccoons will not catch a bus and come into town in hopes of finding hen food.  If you have rodents or raccoons in your hood, then they are already there.  I have never once seen a rodent in our backyard coop.

What about eating the hens?

The ordinance we propose contains a 'no-kill' clause.  Go to Whole Foods for fresh hen meat.  I prefer the vegetarian route.

Why are you proposing another Ordinance that will create a potential problem here in Jacksonville?

Hens can already be found across the city in large numbers and are readily for sale at the local feed and garden centers.  We want to legitimize a very large existing issue, not create a new one.

What about pigs and cows?

The existing ordinance addresses only backyard hens.

Are hens considered 'gateway' fowl - leading to desires of keeping pigs, cows, bears, camels and other animals?

Are you lucid?

What about other cities across the U.S.?

Most other cities across the world and the U.S. allow for a limited number of backyard hens.  You can find reference to and summaries of other cities Urban Ag code here.

Here is the backyard domestic hen language we are proposing for Jacksonville:

The keeping of domestic hens is permitted outright on lots zoned for a single-family dwelling as an accessory use to any principal permitted use.

Up to six (6) domestic hens may be kept per single-family lot.

Enclosing structures for domestic hens shall be provided and shall be screened from street view.  

Enclosing structures shall comply with Section 656.403 and shall be consistent with setback requirements.

Structures for domestic hens and flock care shall be consistent with University of Florida, IFAS Publication AN239 Basic Guide for the Backyard Chicken Flock as amended.

Roosters are not permitted.

Killing and dressing domestic hens is not permitted except at a permitted processing facility.

More soon!


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