An Interesting Dispute Over Chickens

Our property rights in modern America have and are being eroded at an alarming rate.  This is a direct result of the influence of Marxism and the Russian Revolution upon the entirety of the Western Legal Tradition.  In the introduction to Law and Revolution, The Formation of the Western Legal Tradition, Prof. Berman writes, “It is surely true that in the twentieth century virtually all nations of the West have experienced the introduction of pervasive governmental controls over most aspects of economic life (34).”  He later laments that “the individual owner can hardly plant a tree or build an extension on his kitchen without governmental permission (35).”

A recent example of this comes from one of the three little Eastern Kentucky towns that I could legitimately call my hometown—Berea, Kentucky.  (Incidentally, the other two towns are Richmond and Irvine.  I grew up roughly in the middle of and yet as far away from each of them as could be.)  The battle for property rights in this instance involves a proposed ordinance regulating the rights of residents within the city to own and raise chickens on their own property.  You can read about the proposed ordinance which would partially lift a nearly hundred year-old ban on chickens in Berea here.  You can also read the response from the Berea Chicken Brigade at  (The Berea Chicken Brigade is in support of the chickens.)

I, for one, hope they are able to raise chickens.  But that is really not why I am writing this post.  Rather, I like the story because of the conundrum in which it places both the left and the right.  It would seem that both should support the chickens, but, of course, we know that most on the left and the right would not.

First, for the left.  People on the left are supposed to be the only ones who care about the poor, right?  Also, aren’t they the only ones who care about the environment?  (I would dispute both of these, but, let’s assume, in arguendo, that the left’s propaganda is true.  Those holding a Christian worldview should care about the poor, and not just to get votes, and the environment, but not to worship it as our creator but to recognize that it has been entrusted to us as a stewardship by The Creator.)  Obviously then those on the left should be in full support of allowing the poor, inner city residents of Berea to raise chickens.  It would provide them with eggs and meat and fertilizer for their gardens (which they should also support their ability to raise and fence.)  The chickens can also eat table scraps, keeping them out of the landfills.  These would be only a few of the many benefits to both the poor and the environment that would come from the raising of chickens.  So, why would so many on the left oppose a measure like this?

As for the right, they are the ones that love freedom, right?  Aren’t they supposed to be the ones that want to protect property rights and oppose Marxism?  Thus, those on the right should be trumpeting the cause of the chickens shouldn’t they?  Well, yes, in theory.  However, too often in practice the right ends up doing little more than opposing the left’s version of Marxist Socialist policy only to propose as a substitute its own version of Marxism.  (It is with regret that I must say this.  I consider myself very, very far to the right, but I must admit that many who are supposedly on the “right” are far from being truly conservative on the economy, the size and role of government, and ultimately on freedom.)

Despite what appears to be a win-win for everyone involved, we know that many, if not most, on both the left and the right would vehemently oppose the raising of chickens in their own subdivision or neighborhood.  I submit that, at least in part, this is because we have become addicted to the idea of making other people use or not use their own property in a way that suits us even though we have not compensated them for it.  I am pretty sure the Bible calls that stealing.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Berea, and it will get even more interesting if these chicken-raising ideas begin to spread across the country.  Given the bad economy, the green movement, and the upcoming election, maybe it is time to lobby for a national law freeing landowners all across the country to raise backyard chickens in the name of helping the poor, saving the planet, preserving property rights, and celebrating freedom!  Maybe the time is right for a National Chicken Brigade to fight to see the entire nation ring with the sounds of freedom in the form of the crowing of roosters!