About Me

Twenty years ago I asked a Tarot card reader what would I be doing when I was 50. She replied, “I see you doing something so wildly creative, it defies a job title.” Only recently did I realize that was a slick way of saying, “I have no idea of what you’ll be doing.” But that prediction kept me charging ahead to the fifties with zeal and anticipation. Now that the future is today, I’m ready for anything!

The sky is falling,
some Bloomington residents fear

There’s a saying that goes “Laws are like sausages. You should never watch them being made.” Add chickens (to the laws, not to the sausages) and the process gets even trickier.

Last Monday the City Council of Bloomington, Minnesota voted 3-3 on revising the regulations that allow residents to keep backyard poultry. The issue arose early in 2010 when Bloomington resident Jeanie Mellem was told she was violating a city ordinance with her four hens. Supporters flocked to her Facebook  page. Advocates for Gretchen, Grace, Carolyn and Emma, as well as for other Bloomington hens, kept the chicken question on the City Council's table.

Current law allows residents of the southwest Minneapolis suburb to keep chickens as long as they’re at least 100 feet from other residential lots. The Council is willing to change the 100-foot requirement, or setback. The question is by how much. Three members wanted a 30-foot setback. Three other members wanted a 50-foot setback. The seventh Council member was absent. Residents who spoke against the 30-foot setback feared declining property values and disease. After two votes the Council remained deadlocked.

It's hard to sort through all the information out there about disease. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention lists five different types of flu on its  Web page.  But the simple truth is, chickens get sick. They're living creatures.  When an animal gets sick, a  responsible caretaker isolates it from the healthy ones and nurses it back to health. Knowing how Jeanie dotes on her “ladies,” as she calls them, a hen under her care would have a hot-water bottle tucked in her nesting box and a bowl of whatever soup sick chickens get.

Flu strains among birds have always existed. The panic started when the virus  jumped species. A roaming housecat could kill an infected songbird and start the process all over again. The world is a dangerous place, and Bloomington is no exception. You could keep your cat indoors, or get rid of it altogether, shoo away all the songbirds. You'd still be left with the fear that keeps you from living your life.

When in doubt, default to your mom’s rules.

Responding to the concern about declining property values, supporters of the Bloomington chickens have  posted photos  on Facebook of poultry coops ranging from  Martha Stewart traditional  to Minnesota rustic. The next step is a vote before the entire City Council on November 1. Emails can be sent to www.ci.bloomington.mn.us. Fanciers of poultry and fans of civic engagement await the verdict.

Related article: Feathers fly as Bloomington debates chicken-raising by Mike Hanks

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