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Durham chickens might fly

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It seems that poultry love is infectious. Even as the Indy was going to print with an article about citizens lobbying to relax the zoning laws in Chapel Hill to allow more backyard flocks ("Urban chickens," Oct. 31), a similar effort was getting off the ground in Durham.

More than 400 signatures have been collected on a petition to be presented to the Durham City Council. Organizer Kavanah Ramsier says her goal is to procure 1,000 signatures and put backyard flocks on the agenda of the city planning commission.

Ramsier says the petition was an outgrowth of her work as coordinator for the Durham Inner-City Gardeners (DIG) program, which teaches leadership and life skills to Durham high schoolers through organic gardening. DIG is part of the South Eastern Efforts Developing Sustainable Spaces (SEEDS), a nonprofit community garden and educational organization. Although the petition drive is independent, Ramsier says the idea sprouted in the garden.

"So many people have come to our garden and mentioned that they used to have chickens, they'd like chickens or they have chickens despite the prohibition," Ramsier says.

Ramsier has heard concerns about noise and sanitation, but both worries are usually neutralized with education, she says. The petition specifically mentions only hens, as roosters tend to be the noisy ones. And a coop for a small flock has "absolutely no negative smells" if kept clean, she adds.

A growing movement of people aiming to get closer to their food is pushing local governments to revisit laws nationwide. Small flocks of chickens are permitted in Carrboro, Raleigh, Asheville and Charlotte, as well as large cities such as New York and Los Angeles.

As more and more individuals reject the industrial food system, backyard flocks are becoming increasingly popular. The hens are prized for their nutritious and fresh eggs, ravenous appetites for garden pests and fertile droppings.

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