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March 7, 2013
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Spring chicks aren't just for farms these days

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Fruitvale resident Heather Huntley can't begin to count the ways her backyard chickens enliven her life."I love chickens," said Huntley, who started raising these egg-laying birdies at her home only one year ago. "I love the sounds, the clucks. It's an intersection between the wild and pets. ... It's a different experience than having a dog or a cat."Sharing eggs with her friends and colleagues at Palisade High School, where she teaches, additionally brings joy to Huntley; so does watching her dog and the neighborhood children interact with her brood."It's brought me closer to all my neighbors," she added. "It's a conversation piece and a peace offering with eggs. Now, we may build a garden together. It helps build community, and (the chickens) bring smiles to their faces. ... We give to the chickens and the chickens give back to us."Huntley said her neighbors love the chickens so much, she never has to worry when she goes out of town. They just look over to see what the birds need without even being asked."Kids come over and feed them rice," she said. "People take photos. So far, no one has complained about the rooster."Though city and county ordinances don't prohibit roosters, noise issues can be reported to governing entities if it gets out of control. Currently, the City of Grand Junction allows for residents to have chickens and roosters, turkeys, ducks, you name it. The County has similar regulations."There's a spacing requirement and a number requirement," said City of Grand Junction Planning Manager Lisa Cox. "The max is six adult animals on a parcel of .5 acres or less. ... They must be kept outside the residence and confined in some type of enclosure no closer than 20 feet to a principal residential structure, even if it's on adjoining property."More chickens, or other foul, are allowed as acreage grows. It's recommended that folks considering backyard chickens call the City or County to find out what's allowed before purchasing birds."If you're renting a house and you want to raise a few chickens for fresh eggs, we don't require that you own property," Cox said. City regulations simply require "that people be respectful of their neighbors and abide by the rules."With such a non-invasive take on residential chicken ownership, it's no surprise the number of folks raising backyard birds is growing. Many folks questioned about urban chickens said they either raise their own or knew someone who did. "I thinks it's getting more popular in the valley," Paula Nichols, another Fruitvale resident, said.And, after acquiring five chickens seven years ago, Nichols can't imagine eating store-bought eggs; the taste is just that much better."They all have personalities," she added. "They're fun. They're pets, too." Nichols warned against roosters, however."They're too noisy," she said.Besides the eggs and the cute factor, there are other benefits to having backyard chickens; both Huntley and Nichols said their birds help control bugs. Plus, they eat extra kitchen scraps.Suzanne Daniels, a Grand Junction resident, began raising residential chickens in 2008. Though she had no previous experience, Daniels said she learned quickly through trial and error."The most important thing is making your coop predator proof," she said. "Experience can be a harsh teacher that way."Daniels also noted that purchasing chicks shouldn't be taken lightly. "They are a commitment and not a toy to be tossed in a few weeks when (people) get tired of the poop," she said.

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The Post Independent Updated Mar 7, 2013 04:08PM Published Mar 7, 2013 01:30PM Copyright 2013 The Post Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.