Now the big news is chickens.

2009-08-31The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports on page one that there is quite a hoo ha in the city of Roswell, Georgia, over a new chicken ordinance. This is such big news that it made page one, right next to a story about why little football teams won’t play big ones. Seems that  the Adalusia State Mighty Ferrets are sick of getting stomped by Georgia

Chickens are apparently a big part of the fabric of life in Roswell. There’s even a state-wide organization with 700+ members devoted to the raising of chickens in backyards.

Roswell wants to limit the number of chickens to 25. The chicken-loving residents are outraged. Seems the upstanding chicken keepers see the chickens as a source of eggs and a great way to teach the kids responsibility and the government’s meddling in chicken keeping as a violation of individual rights.

This is not the first time the issue of keeping farm animals at home has jumped to page one. A couple of years ago a family in an upscale neighborhood decided to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in a traditional way. They were going to slaughter a goat on the patio. This, as you can imagine, got the attention of local law enforcement, especially because some of the neighbors thought the upcoming celebration might be a teeny bit over the top.  The problem was, it’s not illegal to slaughter an animal in your backyard. I’m happy to report that the goat walked because the goat-eating family agreed that it might be traumatic for small children to hear the plaintive bleating of a goat as it was being sent to goat Heaven.

My dad raised champion Black Leghorn chickens in his backyard in West End and shipped them off to big chicken shows up North. The chickens won big, much the same as a French poodle or a Beagle might walk off with the silver water bowl at some big dog show. There was no ordinance against backyard chicken keeping, probably because this was in the early days of the 20th century and chickens were a routine part of urban living. Granted, a lot of the chickens were supplying fresh eggs, and the less lucky, non-egg bearing chickens often ended up as Sunday dinner.

The story about the Roswell Chicken Rights issue didn’t say whether some of the chickens were champions, although my guess is that the champion variety are mainly from rural areas. Nor did the story say anything about the chickens being the source of protein in addition to eggs.

You do have to ask yourself  how many chickens are too many to keep. Nobody wants to live next door to a chicken breeder, and there is the issue of noise. There is also the issue of precedent. I mean, what’s next? Sheep (for the wool, I guess,) pigs (for the companionship) or even donkeys.

But sure as someone puts a cow in the backyard next to the chicken coop some municipality will have a problem with it, and a group of irate citizens will form the Farm Animal Residential Movement (F.A.R.M.) and we’ll see a full report on the front page of the paper, right next to the story about sloths as family pets.

Individual rights, lower health care costs, the jobless rate, and chickens. The critical issues of the day are ever with us.

© 2009 Mark E. Johnson, Jr.

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson

Mark Johnson is a professional mentalist and mind reader who presents his unique and unforgettable program to conventions, college and universities, sales meetings, private parties, business and civic clubs and more. He has also appeared at the Punchline Comedy Club in Atlanta and produces, along with Jerry Farber and Joe M. Turner, Atlanta Magic Night at the Red Light Cafe in Midtown. He is a member of the Psychic Entertainers Association, the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the Georgia Magic Club,Buckhead Rotary Club and Friends of Jim The Wonder Dog. You can learn more at He is the author of three books: "Living The Dream," the story of the first ten years of FedEx; "Superman, Hairspray, and the Greatest Goat On Earth," a collection of mostly true stories;, and "Yes Ma'am, You're Right: The Essential Rules For Living With A Woman."  Mark's day job is as a freelance writer and communications and marketing consultant. Mark has traveled around the world twice but has never been to Burlington, Vermont. He does not eat beets or chicken livers, and he has never read "Gone With The Wind." He is the only person he knows who was once a card-carrying member of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists. He is a fifth generation Atlantan,  the father of three, and the grandfather of five. All offspring are demonstrably perfect. He lives in Smyrna with his wife Rebecca (aka The Goddess) and two dogs: Ferguson, an arrogant Scottish terrier; and, Lola, a Siberian husky who is still trying to figure out what the hell she's doing in Cobb County.