Nature Center board president Rebecca Mumaw was the driving force behind the passage of the ordinance allowing backyard chickens in Cedar Rapids. She and CR-CLUC (Citizens for the Legalization of Urban Chickens) have since helped other communities craft ordinances to spread the “chicken love”. There is no question that Rebecca loves “her girls” and they return her affection with amusing antics and delicious eggs. Rebecca shares her thoughts with us on why she remains committed to raising chickens at home.
Four years ago the city of Cedar Rapids approved zoning ordinance changes to allow its citizens to keep up to 6 hens in the backyards. The Indian Creek Nature Center was involved from the beginning and gave immediate credibility with the city council. The Nature Center also offered to teach classes to potential backyard hen owners about the basics of keeping a few hens. Together with the city and the neighborhoods, we crafted an ordinance that addressed both the concerns of the neighbors and city officials.
I am pleased to say our work has resulted in an ordinance that the city of Cedar Rapids considers a success story in community and city council cooperation. Over 200 people have taken the backyard chicken class at the Indian Creek Nature Center to learn how to become backyard chicken keepers. The ordinance and process has been used as a model in several communities in the U.S. as cities continue to encourage sustainable living practices. Surrounding communities have been encouraged by our success and enacted ordinances of their own.
Encouraging backyard hens has had many benefits for the hen owners and for the community as a whole. Keeping chickens is a healthy way of gardening that provides free fertilizer for the garden that needs no packaging or transporting. Backyard composting reduces the amount of methane produced in landfills reducing the carbon footprint of the home owner and the city as a whole. The hens eat garden pests reducing or eliminating the need for pesticides in the yard. Since the hens eat kitchen and garden waste, less waste needs to be transported and disposed of by the city. Best of all, the eggs of free-range hens are healthier than the eggs of caged hens. They are locally produced and consumed making Cedar Rapids more sustainable and resilient.
Raising chickens in the city is no longer a big deal. It is now just another way to healthfully garden in your own backyard – and it’s fun! Chickens each have their own quirky personality and place in the flock. We spend hours watching them in the garden. If you’d like to learn more about the joys of raising urban chickens, join us at the Backyard Chicken Class at ICNC or visit our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/crcluc.