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(Trent Nelson | Tribune file photo) The West Valley City Council on Tuesday, April 15, 2014, voted to allow chickens in residential areas.
Kirby: A thing or two West Valley City should know about chickens

By Robert Kirby

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Mar 30 2014 01:01 am • Last Updated Mar 30 2014 01:01 am

Last week, there was a herd of chickens in front of my house. Chickens are not unusual where I live but even in Herriman we don’t get entire packs of them running loose in the streets.

These were chickens in a peck pack, totally without collars, licenses and muzzles. I’m guessing they weren’t even microchipped.

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Don’t act like chipping a chicken has never been done. If it was a special chicken — say a champion cockfighting rooster known as the "Beak of Death"— an owner/manager might want some way of identifying it should the cops find it drunk in a gutter.

However, given the life expectancy of average free-range chickens, microchipping them would probably cause more confusion than it would solve.

You can imagine an animal shelter employee scanning a hapless Labrador retriever looking like it had just eaten a mattress.

Vet: "Wow, says here that you’re seven chickens belonging to a Mr. Goober Smith."

Lab: "Another dog ate them. Not me."

I also concede how pointless it would be to put collars on chickens. Their heads are smaller than their necks, a condition common among fowls, NFL linemen and elected officials.

Put a collar on a chicken and it would fall off as soon as the chicken bent over to pick up its car keys or read the fine print on a legal document.

These are just a few of the problems facing West Valley City as it considers whether to make owning and operating chickens legal in residential areas.

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Some residents say chickens aren’t a problem. Their eggs are nutritious. And chickens eat bugs that infest gardens. This is not a favor on the part of the chicken as much as it is competition. Chickens will also eat your garden.

Opponents are against chickens in neighborhoods because of the smell and the noise. Both of these are valid claims if you’ve ever lived next to a chicken shack.

The noise problem is handled by simply continuing the ban on roosters. As for the poop, I’d like to see a dozen chickens outpoop Nu-Nu on any given day.

Speaking of which, I wasn’t aware of the chickens out front until Nu-Nu lost his mind in the front room. A simple dog, he has a hard time distinguishing between threat levels. Everything is a coyote to Nu-Nu.

When Nu-Nu began barking, I went out and saw the marauding pack of chickens (there were four) on the driveway. I immediately fetched several firearms. Nu-Nu took cover under the refrigerator in the basement.

Before I fired a warning shot I noticed that none of the chickens were in fact the Beak of Death. They were all hens making no more noise than an elderly book club.

Furthermore, the only poop visible was that left by the bishop’s two terriers from next door.

I held my fire. Perhaps there was some benefit to the situation if I simply lured the chickens into the backyard.

I tried. In the process I got so attached to the idea that I gave the chickens names: "Picnic," "Barbie Q," "Hot Wings" and "General Tsao."

Chickens are plenty stupid but they might be clairvoyant. They somehow got the gist of what was going on and ran away.

That’s OK. Owning a mob of undocumented chickens is probably easier if you get them from a drive-up window.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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