Monday, September 17, 2012
Commentary: Flower Mound has a cultural right to ranch chickens
The pioneers who settled Flower Mound raised chickens, so current-day residents should be able to, too.
FLOWER MOUND Early settlers in the Flower Mound community kept chickens. Chickens and their eggs were a staple food for pioneers in the remote Cross Timbers and on the Long Prairie. General stores like Waketon Store and Yoakley Store emerged to sell goods.
But families preferred the benefits of keeping chickens at home.
Most families in rural Flower Mound kept chickens through the 1950s. Without them there was no fried chicken on Sunday, eggs for breakfast, or eggs for baking. Many families kept chickens into the 1970s. No one knows how many chickens are in Flower Mound today. Many more residents want chickens now, for the same benefits provided our early town settlers.
Flower Mound was incorporated in 1961 to stop Irving from taking our small farms and ranches. Black Mark Farms was the largest property owner with about 4,000 acres. Bob Rheudasil ran Black Mark Farms and raised chickens with other livestock. Black Mark had two large chicken houses. Bob raised chickens and turkeys at Black Mark Headquarters, East of The Mound. Bob had a second chicken house at the shop facility on what is now Morriss Road, near Forestwood Middle School.
Ed McAfee sold Cornish Hens next to his Ice House on Wichita Trail. Leroy McAfee and Herby Luno had commercial poultry operations on their farms also.
The Morriss Brothers raised chickens on Morriss Road and Olan Dixon on Dixon Lane, both near Marcus High School. Prominent and notorious families alike kept chickens including Doc Wilkerson, John Immel, Ben Campbell, Ernest Hilliard, Otto Consolvo, Albert Stowe, and Ed Dyer.
Early leaders of Flower Mound set the vision of preserving our rural heritage. Early town documents recorded these visions, “Building upon Historical and Cultural Traditions, Maintaining Rural Character, and Preserving a Ranch Style Culture.”
The current Vision Statement of Flower Mound: “The vision of Flower Mound is to preserve our unique country atmosphere, heritage, and quality of life while cultivating a dynamic economic environment.”
“Historic & cultural traditions, rural character, ranch style culture, unique country atmosphere, and heritage” is how past and present leaders envisioned our town. Backyard chickens fit this vision, like peas in a pod.
Flower Mound’s vision was not to be another Highland Park, who recently said backyard chickens did not fit in their city. Flower is unique. Our heritage is closer to Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Grapevine, and McKinney - that all allow backyard chickens. Flower Mound currently allows chickens on lots of one acre or more. The vast majority of homes are on smaller lots. Some of these residents want their chickens too.
We got our chickens to naturally control fleas and ticks in the yard. Since, we have grown to really enjoy them. Chickens help with the lawn and gardens, do the pest control, provide great entertainment, put themselves to bed at dusk, and provide tasty eggs for breakfast.
Ron Paul states his reason for having chickens in Flower Mound, “Chickens have become a key distraction and quickly became our favorite pets.
"They have taught our children patience, responsibility and where food comes from. Our children have learned simple pleasures that don’t emit from an iPod, iPad, iMac or iPhone,” he said.
The Paul family keeps chickens on acreage near their home, but wants them in their backyard so they can better protect them against predators and enjoy them more.
No citizens are publically opposing chickens on small lots that I know of, but town officials state there are naysayers. Objections are universal with ordinance changes involving backyard chickens, "They smell, are noisy, are not pets, and don’t belong in the city." Animal Control staff has concerns of increased work load and increasing predators.
Most objections are half-truths or based in myth:
Noise – Roosters are noisy but not proposed for small lots. Hens are fairly quiet - much quieter than dogs. At the loudest, a hen is about the decibel level of normal human conversation.
Hens also go quietly to roost at dusk, unlike dogs and cats.
Smell - The bad smell wrap is from Factory Farm chicken manure that is stockpiled for months from tens of thousands of chickens. We have all driven by a Factory Farm and smelled this. The reality is 10 backyard chickens produce less manure than one Cocker Spaniel and the smell is not near as potent.
Predators - Predators have always been in Flower Mound and will always be here. Backyard chickens do not increase predator numbers. A well constructed coop keeps chickens away from predators. Coyotes are not going to call up the cousins in Wise County to come over for a chicken dinner, if Flower Mound gets a few more backyard chickens.
Pets - Chickens can be great pets with unique personalities and affection for their owners. They are fun, educational, and just fun to watch.
Folks are passionate about their pets and property rights. Both are at play here. I fully expect the town will approve a reasonable ordinance allowing backyard chickens on smaller lots.
If this makes sense anywhere, it is in Flower Mound with our rural heritage, sustainable lifestyles, and vision for the town.
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