Tuesday, April 6, 2010

In Bremerton, WA, Liberty is for the Birds (Or Chickens)

In Washington State, in a small city across the water from Seattle, the battle for liberty comes down to one word: "Cluck"

Bremerton City Council has taken maneuvers to effectively outlaw laying hens within the city limit. This move impacts dozens of families within the limits of the city who have small flocks of a few birds, used mainly for weed control and fresh egg production. The city councilmen have cited their concern over hiring a new city employee to be the city's watchful eye on backyard chicken farmers.

In comparison, the large city of Seattle allows for up to four laying hens.

The concern of the Bremerton town council is unfounded. Citizens should have the right to raise non-invasive livestock, such as hens, and should be expected to act within the bounds of community sanity. Obviously a large flock on a small property could be considered a nuisance, however, it is not the responsibility of town councils to limit what food sources we choose and what productive livestock we keep - within reason.

There have been calls to allow four hens, but to require a license on each of your hens. I am also opposed to this, as licensing would then require additional license enforcement, as well as establish precedent to licensing other forms of livestock in outlying farms that remain within the city limits.

The philosophy is simple - allow freedom where freedom is logical. To question a community's want or will to raise egg laying hens is one thing, but to restrict the right to raise food producing livestock - that seems to be outside of the scope of government. It would make more sense to ban cats and dogs - who spread ring worms and other diseases to humans on a much larger scale, as well as cause flea infestations in rental and other properties... Dogs and cats are found wondering the streets and neighborhoods and have been known to attack or harass neighborhoods... I can build a much larger case for community safety - however, I believe that people should be held to a higher standard, and given the opportunity to live free and succeed.

So, here in rural Washington, it seems like freedom is, in this case, for the birds!


  1. Unfortunately, the courts have long held that it is a "reasonable exercise of a limited power" for zoning laws to prohibit agricultural livestock in urban areas.

    (I was a zoning enforcement officer, in a former life.)

  2. You know what I would do? I would own laying hens anyway.

    I once lived in a municipality where we were "required" by law to register our dogs. Guess what we didn't do.

    No American is bound to obey either irrational or unconstitutional laws.

    There is a substantive difference between a criminal and an outlaw. The latter may very well be acting in accordance with noble principles.

    I got your hen ban right here, Bremerton.

  3. I should add, in response to Rev. Paul's comment, that it IS certainly rational for a municipality to exclude Old MacDonald's Farm from the city limits. But for them to ban "non-invasive" livestock such as a few hens, well, that IS unreasonable, especially when other cities are allowing it.

    Many people are turning to "Victory Gardening" and small-scale husbandry to supplement their income or raise and consume healthy food. Who is the government to say "no" to this?

  4. For the record, I was not advocating the ban on non-invasive livestock. I meant to say that seeking redress through the courts would not work. S-TJ is correct; it's easier to ask forgiveness than to seek permission. And no freeman needs permission to exercise liberty.