Arlington, VA

A group dedicated to legalizing backyard chicken keeping in Arlington met in Fairlington last night to discuss their strategy for winning the support of fellow residents and, in turn, the county government.

An unscientific poll conducted on ARLnow.com last week found that most respondents were amenable to the idea of urban chicken ownership.

Below is the press release sent to us by the ‘Arlington Egg Project’ after last night’s meeting.

On Thursday, May 19, a committed group of Arlington residents gathered at the Fairlington Community Center for an organizational meeting to discuss methods for promoting community conversations about the benefits of backyard hens. Their group, dubbed the Arlington Egg Project, seeks for Arlington County officials to research the issue and, ultimately, revise local zoning ordinances to allow people living in Arlington neighborhoods to engage in small-scale, sustainable hen-raising.

Currently, Arlington County zoning ordinances require that poultry be kept at least one hundred feet from any street or lot line. This provision precludes virtually all Arlington households from keeping backyard hens.

“Backyard hens provide clean, healthful food and reduce dependence on environmentally harmful factory farming. Allowing responsible homeowners to have small numbers of backyard hens would be in the best tradition of Arlington’s values,” says Tycie Horsley, an Arlington resident and Arlington Egg Project member.

A recent morning poll in www.ArlNow.com indicated strong interest in allowing backyard chickens in Arlington, with 72% of respondents expressing support for or openness to revision of Arlington ordinances to allow more residents to keep chickens.

The positive participation of Arlington residents in the Arlington Egg Project is consistent with a growing urban agriculture movement in communities nationwide, as increasing numbers of people recognize the myriad benefits of raising small numbers of backyard hens and other sustainable urban agricultural practices. Many urban communities, including Portland, Seattle, Madison, Baltimore, Chicago, and New York, allow residents to keep hens, and many others are jumping on the band wagon as interest in sustainable, healthful living grows.

The May 19 meeting of the Arlington Egg Project featured guest speaker Kirsten Conrad Buhls of the Arlington office of the Virginia Cooperative Extension. Buhls, an expert on urban agriculture and natural resources, states, “The Sustainable Urban Agriculture education programs that are led by Virginia Cooperative Extension in Arlington County have been part of an effort to educate residents about land-use decision-making that goes beyond the natural resource conservation education efforts currently led by Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Arlington County government offices. To meet increased interest in programs about local foods, Extension is pleased to be able to help develop and support initiatives like the Sustainable Urban Agriculture Lecture Series, Local Foods Local Chef and the Arlington Egg Project, with research-based education that brings the experience and teaching of our state land grant colleges to Arlington County. Across the state, local Extension agents provide training on all aspects of poultry keeping and the office is pleased to be able to offer these services to residents of Arlington County.”

The members of the Arlington Egg Project will continue to plan and conduct educational efforts about the benefits of backyard hens, working toward a well-considered revision of Arlington ordinances. Models for such a revised ordinance are available in other urban communities, many of which place limits on the number of backyard hens, prohibit roosters, and ensure secure and proper housing for hens. Arlington Egg Project members believe such an approach, tailored for Arlington’s own interests and values, could promote sustainable and healthy lifestyles to the benefit of all of Arlington.

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