This is how Arlington discusses backyard chicken-raising
- Photo: Richard Elzey/flickr.
Dozens of Arlington’s finest blue blazers and silk cardigans have gathered at the Gerard Phelan Hall dining room at Marymount University for a night of civic activity. The Arlington Committee of 100 will hear remarks from a trio of stakeholders on the question of raising chickens, and the remarks will be civil and never out of turn. Should Arlington County relax its laws so residents can more easily keep birds in their backyards? Nothing can be settled tonight, but if you whisper to your tablemates during the debate, a woman in a sweater vest will silence you with a look.
The first expert of the evening takes the podium while the attendees finish their catered dinner. (No civics on an empty stomach.) Over the pleasant tinkling of silverware touching china, Bill Fritz, Chief of Current Development in Albemarle County, describes his county’s shift in chicken regulation. He manages a joke about Thomas Jefferson, which tickles the crowd.
Ed Fendley, founder of the Arlington Egg Project, is up next. In a slim dark suit and dark shirt, he addresses the meeting with a smooth voice and professional jokiness.
Fendley’s outlines the case for relaxing backyard bird regulation with a slick Powerpoint presentation.
“Hens are better legal and regulated, not illegal and unregulated,” he says. He describes the Egg Project’s platform as thus: no roosters; allow a limited number of hens; and prescribe proper, secure, humane housing for the birds.
In a pleasing bit of theater, Fendley asks the crowd if anyone has ever had a backyard hen egg. A few hands go up. Then he asks if anyone would like to try a backyard hen egg. A few other hands. Fendley produces eggs for the audience members to take home.
“Backyard hens are good for your health,” he says. “Backyard hens connect children and adults to where food comes from.”
“Laying hens are good helpers,” Fendley continues. “They divert trash from waste management systems.”
Fendley asks the audience which legal path the county should pursue regarding chickens. The free-for-all? The not at all? “Or,” he says, “the Goldilocks solution?”
“Hens can be good neighbors,” he says, drawing a chuckle from the crowd. “They want to be good neighbors.” He ends the presentation with a slide saying “Believe in Arlington” and a round of vigorous applause.
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