by Tom Sims
“Cluck, Cluck, Cluck,” says Miss Hennie Hen and she offers the gift of fresh eggs to her happy keepers.
Around Fresno County, scores of families are discovering the healthy fun of raising their own eggs and partaking of the nutritional delights of doing so. However, in the city of Fresno, a family can legally have a pig as a pet, but not a hen. Rachel Carpenter and CCLUCK would like to change that. CCLUCK is an acronym and abbreviation for Central California Local Urban Chicken Keepers.
The Mission of CCLUCK is “to inspire, educate, equip and mobilize families to produce healthy & sustainable food.”
Specifically that involves chickens and eggs without settling the age old question of which came first.
According to founder, Rachel Carpenter, “Central California Local Urban Chicken Keepers (CCLUCK) helps educate the community about the benefits of keeping micro flocks of laying hens in an urban setting and offers training in maintaining hens in a healthy and responsible manner. It also advocates for changes in local ordinances and zoning laws.”
The change that Rachel and members of the organization are seeking in Fresno is a simple change in the wording of the city ordinance to allow hens as pets. Hens don’t crow every morning waking up their neighbors. Their rooster brothers do that. They make good neighbors. In fact, there are numerous benefits to hens as pets according to Carpenter.
Rachel is a long time community advocate for food access, healthy lifestyle, and wellness. She is also a creative artist who funds much of her work through creation and sale of thematic crafts.
She makes the benefits of raising hens known to the community on a petition website that has been endorsed by 223 supporters. There are many others who have signed paper petitions and the movement is growing. You can learn more on the website.
Among the benefits and arguments listed are these:
1. The ability to raise a few hens for eggs increases individuals’ access to healthy sustainable food.
2. It’s also great to have a pet that contributes by not only laying eggs, but eating bugs and weeds in the garden and keeping the grass trimmed in the yard.
3. An egg should be fresh!
4. The city ordinances only allow for a total of 4 pets, and 4 chickens are less of a potential nuisance than 4 dogs or cats.
5. The city has already made pet exceptions for Muscovy Ducks and Pot Bellied Pigs. Ducks naturally carry the avian flu and Pot Bellied Pigs can get to 250 pounds. Surely 4 hens should be allowed if dogs, cats, ducks and pigs are.
Some of the signers cited their reasons for signing:
Melanie Halstead: “I already garden and this would make a natural welcomed addition to my gardening efforts.”
Lois Case: “I think it is time to help us all be a bit more self-sufficient. Plus, they eat a ton of bugs and that will help with reducing the amount of pesticides we use.”
Jan Bourret: “Though I love dogs they are more a decorative pet. Hens are so beneficial for eating bugs, scraps and then giving you an egg as a thank you.”
Kimberly Toepfer: “Allowing people to be more self-reliant by giving them another means to supplement their diet with homegrown, fresh eggs just makes sense. More people are growing vegetables for the same reason.”
Ann Duncan: “I want safe, nutrient-dense eggs from chickens that help me with pest & weed control & that produce fertilizer for my garden. Chicken noise level is very low and their average ‘waste ‘1.5 oz vs. the average dog’s 12 oz of solid waste per day.”
On many days of the week, for the last two years, Rachel, her daughter Tara, and other volunteers have attended local farmers markets, community events, festivals, and college gatherings to tell their story and collect signatures. The message is in the mantra, “Hens as Pets.”
CCLUCK has gathered a growing army of supporters and members who attend two monthly meetings. One meeting each month is for business and strategy planning, deciding how to educate the public, how to lobby public officials, and how to present the case for hens as pets. The other meeting is for education and networking which often branches off into related topics of sustainability and food access, health, organic gardening, and community policy. There is extensive information shared about how to raise chickens, innovative approaches to housing hens, where to find the right kind of feed, how to build “chicken tractors” that allow movement of the chickens to cultivate yards, and even how to treat common health challenges with one’s pets.
I asked Rachel what lessons she would like to impart to the community about the value of chickens as pets and she responded:
“Chickens can teach family values of sustainability. Even the youngest children are able to make a substantial contribution to the family’s food budget by throwing out grains, gathering eggs and watering the chickens, who eat all sorts of bugs, including black widow spiders. Any family with small children and who are concerned about the safety of their children and find themselves between a rock and a hard place when trying to decide between spraying chemicals and having the danger of black widow spiders, will appreciate the ability to have a few hens as pets, who can also be trained to eat their weeds. The backyard chicken can eliminate the need for both pesticides and herbicides. Chickens have powerfully nutrient-rich waste that can be composted with bedding for fertilizer. They eat a variety of food scraps, so they can also eliminate the need to purchase fertilizer and reduce household waste. Backyard chickens have a powerful potential to help clear our air and water and reduce landfill. Chickens should be part of a system and not just solely kept in a coop.”
Most CCLUCK meetings are fun and informative. They also feature activities for children under the leadership of Rachel’s daughter, Tara Sweeney who serves as the organization’s youth outreach director. Several months ago, they were visited by a variety of live chickens and chicks and the children had a wonderful time playing with them.
Meetings have been held in homes and backyards, on-site at local events, and at Joseph’s Java Junction at 4141 N Fresno in Fresno, from 9-11 am. on Saturdays.
For the future, CCLUCK’s goals include such things as developing educational community outreach, inspiration, mobilization and advocacy, acting as a catalyst in organizing cooperatives, demonstration flocks, and initiatives, and providing a clearinghouse for information and resources in the community. They also intend to generate seed money for projects related to the group’s values, develop innovative approaches to raising hens and other small livestock, and equip people to exercise their rights and move toward self-sufficiency.
Rachel can be contacted at 559-287-1141 or rachelcarpenter@aol[dot]com.
CCLUCK currently meets on the first and third Saturdays of every month.