CITY PLANNERS wrote Boston's zoning codes during the 19th and 20th centuries, when Bostonians were shedding their ties to agrarian America, not rekindling them. So historically speaking, it makes sense that Boston's zoning laws heavily restrict and even prohibit residents from raising poultry in their backyards. But a renewed interest in homegrown foods has inspired an increasing number of residents to transform their land into modern-day homesteads, chicken coops and all.
As long as no cockadoodling roosters are involved, city code should evolve to support the trend. Chickens can make for good, educational pets - especially for children - while doubling as nutritious food producers. Instead, numerous citizens who want to raise chickens can't, while others set up illicit networks of chickens and coops to hide their broods from nosy neighbors and city officials - not to mention predators like coyotes and foxes. Last year, one Roslindale resident was forced to give up her chickens when the city discovered her coop - even after her neighbors expressed support for it.
It's a needless game of cloak and dagger for a harmless pastime. The city has already set up a task force to consider new ways of increasing agriculture in the city. The group should reconsider the poultry restrictions. Any revisions should clearly outline appropriate rules for setbacks and coop hygiene. But as long as pens are built properly and kept tidy, there should be enough room within Boston city limits to let the chickens come home to roost.