Chickens finding a perch in more backyards
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Fresh eggs are one of the benefits of backyard chicken owners such as Peter Underwood and his wife, Mary Jarosz. The couple say environmental sustainability is one of the reasons they raise chickens. Terry Mayer photo.
WHITEWATER — A red rooster once roamed the streets of Whitewater in the mid-1960s. As a matter of fact, the bird and the city helped make each other famous with a photograph in Life magazine in May 1965.
Rudolph spent his evenings in Library Park, and during the day, with the help of a Rooster Crossing sign, he made his way across Main Street to First English Lutheran Church, where the Rev. Jerald and Nancy Wendt provided cracked corn and water.
His return journey took him back to the park, across North Street and a visit with his favorite gal, Fanny, a white Bantam hen.
Such fowlish goings-on are not possible today. That’s because, despite increasing numbers of municipalities adopting backyard chicken ordinances, they allow only hens and not guys like Rudolph.
Still, more and more people are bringing that old-time barnyard feel into their urban landscapes. One of them is Peter Underwood, who lives on West Wildwood Road in Whitewater, which adopted its ordinance in December.
Underwood, 52, and his wife, Mary Jarosz, had been raising chickens on the city’s west side for about five months before officials got wind of their operation — chickens weren’t specifically mentioned either way in the municipal code.
That led to numerous meetings over several months, but the local plan commission and city council eventually gave unanimous approval to the amended ordinance, joining Delavan, Beloit, Fort Atkinson and Jefferson among many others around Wisconsin that have jumped on the chicken bandwagon.
Underwood said raising chickens simply is an extension of the couple’s longtime belief in a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.
“We have friends in Portland (Ore.) who’ve been doing it for about 15 years, and friends from Palmyra started raising them, and we fell in love with the notion,” Underwood said. “We not only feel it’s important for the environment, but it helps build community. We’ve always been big supporters of being better stewards of the land and growing your own food, so we go to farmers markets and an urban farmer stand, we’re members of a couple of community-supported agriculture places in the area, we buy our beef from grass-fed farms and got our eggs from free-range farms.”
Now, they go into their backyard and grab the latter from those laid by Gypsy and her three sidekicks in their chicken tractor, or mobile coop. The Whitewater ordinance allows up to six hens.
Building inspector Fred Walling said that although no one has submitted an application since Delavan passed its ordinance in late August, officials know there is interest.
Backyard Chickens 101 class
When: 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 31
Where: Delavan Community Centre, 826 E. Geneva St., Delavan
To register: Call (262) 728-5585, ext. 2
Get more information: Call Dale Wheelock, chairman of the Town of Darien Recreational Commission, at (262) 882-3633