For a group of Eden Prairie residents, raising chickens is not meant only for farm hands. Currently, backyard chickens are allowed only in rural areas of Eden Prairie. But a local group of chicken advocates led by Sarah Kallal, Sara Freeland and Cori Levin has been working to change that, proposing to change city laws to allow single-family homes (not apartments) to raise up to four hens in backyards.
The three women were strangers prior to the cause. “My chicken friends,” Levin says. “That’s how I introduce them.” Kallal and Freeland first connected in March 2015 with the same aim: to legalize backyard chickens in their community. Levin joined the women at a meeting in October 2015. Today, the group has grown quite a following. It fluctuates depending on the season and what is happening with the city and in the process, but currently, the Facebook group has 74 members. At its peak, there were 120.
“It’s not just yoga people, it’s not just earth tree hugging people, it’s everybody now,” Freeland says of the widespread popularity of backyard chickens. Freeland, who has three boys, first started buying eggs from her son’s elementary school teacher’s chickens.
“It’s a great way to feed my family,” says Kallal, who has four kids. “I think it’s great for kids to learn about the circle of life.”
“People don’t know the benefits,” Levin says, who wants the chickens because they would teach her two kids where their food comes from and how to be responsible with pets.
When the group speaks to community members about some of the benefits of raising backyard chickens, they often cite these examples: The chickens allow you to reduce your carbon footprint because you are not wasting gas to ship fresh eggs from another location; chickens reduce garden pests such as slugs, wood ticks and Japanese beetles. Not to mention their manure—dubbed “black gold”—is very good for gardens.
No issue is ever unanimous. Some common concerns from chicken opponents are issues surrounding the noise, smell and mess. However, the group offers counterpoints to each of these concerns. Starting with the noise: roosters make the most noise and will be prohibited. Hens make a slight clicking noise. In terms of smell, the group says if things are kept sanitary, it should not smell. A flock of five hens produce less manure than a medium-sized dog. Lastly, the mess. The group says urban chicken enclosures are attractive and easily maintained.
What do other southwest metro communities say about the chickens? It varies. In Chaska, chickens are not allowed in residential yards; they are only allowed in rural residential areas of the city, where one house is allowed every 10 acres. In Victoria, chickens are considered farm animals and only allowed in agriculture-zoned areas. Waconia currently does not allow backyard chickens, but the council is working on an updated ordinance. According to Chanhassen city ordinances, chickens are considered farm animals and are only permitted on farm properties.
Advocating to raise backyard chickens in Eden Prairie has taken a lot of legwork. Group members have gone door to door asking for neighbors’ support. Kallal and Freeland have presented their case and research to the city council. The next step will be to ask residents their opinions. In a city-wide census this fall, there will be one or two questions about this issue. The council will review the results of the entire survey, including the chicken issue, in early 2017.
While the group waits on the survey results, they won’t stop raising awareness and garnering support for the cause. “It’s really something positive,” Kallal says. “It’s part of this fantastic green movement.”
Find more information on the Eden Prairie Backyard Chickens Group Facebook page here.