Washington, D.C., is apparently not too chicken to stand up for its rights.

The City Council is currently taking into consideration a bill – drafted and proposed by Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells – that would allow D.C. homeowners to raise chickens on residential property.

Current regulations, according to the D.C. Animal Control Municipal Regulations section 902.7, do not allow chicken coops to be within 50 feet of any building “used for human habitation.” Whether or not homeowners are pleased with the prospect of chickens in the neighborhood is another issue.

Wells’ proposed bill would erase the current statute and replace it with looser restrictions on raising chickens. The bill will require 80 percent of households to approve of a coop that falls within 100 feet of the homes. Moreover, if even one neighbor objects to the coop it will not be approved. The same sanitary guidelines would stay in place, and owners would still have to apply for annual permits.

According to The Washington Examiner, chickens are becoming a common household pet as families wish to harvest their own eggs during the recession. Benefits of harvesting one’s own chickens include healthier, fresher eggs and natural insect control.

Hatching baby chicks can be a learning experience for children. Chickens are a return to the simpler days, when collecting eggs was a common household chore. Some, however, say they are unhappy with the prospect of D.C. becoming an urban farm.

While the drawbacks to raising chickens are few, residents are concerned. Chickens and other types of poultry including turkeys and ducks are prone to carrying diseases, especially salmonella. According to the Centers for Disease Control, salmonella is found in the intestines of chickens, and can be spread through the droppings. Estimates published by the CDC demonstrate that of the 1.5 million cases of salmonella each year, poultry is one of the top culprits. Outbreaks are numerous, especially after handling baby chicks. High-risk groups include children under 5, a group often present in households that raise backyard chickens.

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