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Totally Plucked Up: Chickens In Missoula

Sharpen up the ax and get that skillet spittin’ hot: the chickens are coming to Missoula.

After months of debate, public comment and silly jokes, the Missoula City Council finally passed a landmark ordinance Monday night that will allow residents within city limits to keep up to six chickens on their property. The measure was, predictably, voted against by the Council’s staunch Republicans (“The GOP: Still Not Getting It After 253 Years”), who turned around and green-lighted a huge housing development next to the Rattlesnake Wilderness.

The chicken proposal has been a real cockfight for several months, and residents are sharply divided in their opinions on the impact of poultry on the hoof in Missoula. Proponents welcome the opportunity for residents to produce food locally. They tout the sustainability of raising chickens (at this juncture I would respectfully request that the City Council take the word “sustainability” and place it in the Played-Out Bin with such hackneyed phrases as “been there done that” and “at the end of the day…”).

Opponents claim that the presence of chickens in the city will create noise, filth, disease, and an obscure underground chicken porn industry. Meanwhile this anti-fowl faction will go merrily along with their snow blowers in the winter and leaf blowers in the summer, while their pit bulls and Rottweilers bark into the night at window-rattling volume, stopping occasionally to gnaw on a passing toddler.

There are several conditions to the chicken ordinance. Residents cannot have more than six birds, and their pens must be at least 20 feet from a neighboring residence. The birds will live in rent-controlled coops, and must be provided with a minimum of basic cable (including local channels). The fowl will be allowed at least two hours a day in the exercise yard, and any infractions will result in a trip to “the box.” The eight-piece box, that is.

One rule in particular is a major concession to the sanctity and quietude of the surrounding neighborhood: in order to keep the noise down, no roosters are allowed.

First off, who doesn’t like to wake up to an insistent cock? Think of the positive impact these proud animals would have on our collective waking experience, as they cut loose with a hearty “cock-a-doodle-doo” each dawn! Why, I’m sure we’d all throw back the covers, leap out of bed, and lurch into our day with a good attitude and a vague desire to plow something.

In my never-ending quest for truth, justice, and a free meal, I located an authority on rooster culture, Mr. F. Leghorn, and peppered him with a few questions. While he was somewhat disappointed in the City Council’s rooster ban, Leghorn remained philosophical.

“If there’s one, I say, if there’s one thing I won’t stand for, it’s intolerance. No suh, I won’t tolerate it!” he told me in a recent phone interview. “Us roosters, we got rights, boa, and I aim to exercise those rights. If’n we don’t have ready access to those hens, there’s gonna, I say, there’s gonna be some feathers flyin’ in the barnyard!”

Mr. Leghorn’s spokeschicken, who identified herself only as “Miss Prissy,” made it quite clear that the anti-rooster clause of the city’s new chicken ordinance was unacceptable, and that the City Council was in for a fight.

“So, Miss Prissy,” I asked her, “you feel that roosters should, in fact, be allowed to live within city limits with the hens?”

“YEEEEeeeeeeesss,” she replied.

Leghorn interrupted my conversation with Miss Prissy to point out what he considers a bigger risk to the burgeoning urban chicken population. He made her leave the room then told me in an aside, “Nice girl, but about as sharp as a sack of wet mice.

“Chickenhawks,” he said. “Plain and simple, boa. You gotta, I say, you gotta protect yourself from them chickenhawks, because all them fellas got on their mind is where their next box o’ nuggets is comin’ from. Now why, I say, why that dad-blamed City Council didn’t ban chickenhawks is beyond me, boa. I tell ya, them folks is about as sharp as a bowlin’ ball.”

So ends another contentious chapter in the Missoula City Council’s checkered past and troubled present. With so many issues weighing heavily on our wonderful mountain valley, like growth management, air quality, zoning conflicts, the cost of living, public education funding and an aging infrastructure, it’s things like backyard chickens and juvenile email wars that grab the headlines.

What’s it going to take to whip these gridlocked minutieacrats into shape and get Missoula moving? Perhaps a touch of military discipline would do the Council some good. Maybe it’s time to bring in a hired gun, and I have just the guy in mind. He’s a Southern gentleman, known to rule with a kindly but firm sense of inevitability. His name? Colonel Harlan Sanders.

[Mmm. Gravy. Hey, check back with NewWest.net/BobWire frequently, egg breath.]

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  1. Bob, I could swear you were writing about Deer Lodge. Perhaps this exercise will be the ‘proof of concept’ for Soylent Green production there. The oil byproduct could be used in Montana’s new biofuels business.

    Now as to your question: “First off, who doesn’t like to wake up to an insistent cock?” Perhaps you could suggest the question for one of the political debates.

  2. I’m ignoring you, Craig.

    By the way, this column is dedicated to my friend Cerise. Buck buck buck.

  3. Party cooper!

  4. Bob,
    You ought to add the final resting place of that fine wannabe-plantation-owner to the cross-country vacation recreation itinerary for you and your flock.

    Shout out to Tea Cuppa — Happy Birthday!

  5. It isn’t over until it is over. PS how do you keep you chickens warm? Seems to me electric heaters break city code. Electric permits from the city will be required $$$$