Backyard Chickens: WWI-Era Solution to Almost Everything

Over the course of the past six or eight decades, certain things have come to define, in part, our modern existence: Making a living out of your home has been increasingly restricted, especially in predominantly residential areas; the production of goods has fallen to fewer and larger hands; and we’re now seeing the rise of what some call the helpless generation, with their legion of helicopter parents herding them about.

Now contrast that reality with this USDA poster from just under a century ago, courtesy of online foodsteaders The Icebox Chronicles. In a simple, pragmatic way, the Fed somehow manages to address personal food security, childhood responsibility (the picture even shows them doing all the work), recreation, income potential, and patriotic duty all with a simple plea for backyard chickens.


But times have changed, you say. Today we live in a modern, convenience-driven world. That’s fine, but are we so comfortably detached from the basic workings of nature that we’re now compelled to greet the prospect of a neighboring chicken (not even a rooster!) as though it were a landfill? Or a sex offender? (Like this, or this, or this, or this, or this, or ….)

There’s absolutely nothing revolutionary about a chicken. It’s pretty much a cat with wings that pays you back in food and fertilizer. Which makes me wonder how something so simple, something once promoted by the U.S. government as an easy, self-managed balm for a host of domestic (and national) challenges is now, less than a century later, a growing source of community angst.

They’re fine. They’re harmless. And they’re a helluva lot quieter than a leaf blower.

Get over it.

–Scott Doyon


Filed under Agriculture, Public Policy

8 responses to “Backyard Chickens: WWI-Era Solution to Almost Everything

  1. klundberg

    We’ve invested in 3 pullets a few weeks ago and don’t regret it for
    a minute. 2-3 eggs a day and a flock that is more charismatic than any cat,


  2. Scott,
    Thanks for the post. I appreciate the precedent of government encouraging citizens to perform their civic duty. It might be a good idea for today, when we seemed focused only on maximizing entitlements, war-making, and debt while minimizing taxes.

  3. Keeping backyard chickens and ducks is great fun! A growing movement across America (again). See

  4. mike

    Remember, too, that the US government used to recommend and subsidize the growing of hemp and look where they are now…

  5. Our three “girls” have changed our life for the better. Don’t know what we did with our evenings without them. We spend most nights watching them frolic and cavort. I love the description that they are really just “cats with wings”. Hear hear!

  6. Catherine

    I loved your post and it helped smooth some ruffled feathers up here in Montana. The city council of Billings decided last night that they are going to turn all their citzens who own chickens into criminals overnight by adding “fowl” to the prohibitive existing ordinance where before they were excluded and reject a perfectly reasonable proposed ordinance that would limit the number of hens and exclude roosters. Chickens have been here forever and according to our Animal Control, have never been a problem at all. Suddenly they are the anti-Christ! Our community is held hostage by those arrogant few who seem more intent on micro-managing everyone’s private lives and telling us what we can’t have or can’t do instead of balancing the city budget or addressing the disasterous mess called school district 2 or any number of REAL and important issues. And they think they are being progressive! Where is Super Chicken when we need him??

  7. Just came across this article, it’s so relevant to our battle w/ the city where I live. Many backyard chicken enthusiasts went before the city council to change current codes and allow for a few hens. We got a firm “NO” and a smug shut down from the council members. Well, some of us decided to just get chickens anyway. If we’re right, and they aren’t loud or smell and don’t attract weird predators then no one should notice. Check out and follow my underground chicken movement.

  8. Uncle B

    Economic decline, austerity, foreclosures on impractical McMansions, smaller cars all around, rumours of “Tent Cities”, Shanty Towns, longer line-ups than ever for jobs, disenfranchised folks seeking hand-outs, living in basements, no longer seeking the ‘impossible dream”, family life fading, lives of drugs and debauchery for the disillusioned replacing the home buying family man, even a thrust towards legalizing soft drugs underway, the gap between the rich and the working class ever widening, workers working harder for lower pay, and for money that buys less and less every day, huge bonuses paid to executives, Golden Retirement Parachutes in place for the Upper Classes, Military spending higher than WWII, Expensive Iraq debacle brought higher taxes, but no cheaper gasoline, U.S. infrastructure crumbling, NASA losing ground to China, public transportation woefully inadequate, Schools are 19th in the world and also the most costly? Google the sky-lines of Chinese cities, Asian cities, Dubai, then Google Detroit sky-line, New York, Chicago, etc, and compare. Why such a difference? Lakes rivers, streams seashores polluted, We did this. U,S,. nuclear reactors storing up to four times their capacities of humanocidal waste products. no solution in sight? Accumulations continue. Why? GMO’s legal, unmarked, but forbidden in Europe? Why? Forbidden veggie gardens, chickens, German Hares, for food? in this “once upon a time” America. Heart-breaking. Simply heart-breaking.

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