I lived for three years on the Island of Kauai in the state of Hawaii where there are many backyard chickens, and I thought I might be able to add some actual experience to the current discussion on the revision of the City of Ottawa’s ordinance on chickens.

I will say up front I don’t plan on keeping chickens if the new rules are adopted, although my wife has wanted to for years (having grown up with them in Nebraska), but that is, um ... an ongoing discussion between us.

A recent Herald editorial has made a few misstatements on raising chickens in an urban environment. There are many people on Kauai who keep domesticated chickens in their backyards. My neighbors, my doctor, my mechanic and some of the professors I worked with on Kauai kept chickens, all in suburban and small city environments. My observations from this experience are: Chickens do eat many, many bugs (including centipedes, flying giant cockroaches, and scorpions, but we don’t have to worry about that here). They do eat grass clippings, weeds and garden waste (also avocados and papayas). Hens (which is all that would be allowed in Ottawa) make little to no noise. Roosters, on the other hand, make lots and lots of noise (as anyone who has visited Kauai can tell you).

As to chickens being a problem with city services, the Kauai police, animal rescue and humane society have little problem with unwanted hens or roosters. They usually go to new owners within a few days after being put on Craigslist. Chicken “manure” is not “an antibiotic resistant bacteria” in small urban or suburban situations where backyard coops or rolling portable pens are used. Factory farming situations where they give antibiotics to chickens to promote growth and fight diseases in crowded sheds may have problems with antibiotic resistance. You can find those chicken products in our stores everyday.

In summary, from my years of experience living next to backyard domesticated chickens and ducks I can say that they make little noise (unlike neighborhood dogs), they make little mess with their “manure”/droppings (unlike neighborhood dogs and cats), and I never, ever saw my Kauai neighbors’ chickens bothered by fireworks and gunshots, both of which, get shot off regularly at celebrations on Kauai.

In this citywide discussion it would be wise to use other communities’ experiences to help us make the best decision. With a little research online, I found several Kansas communities that allow small numbers of chickens and ducks within city limits, these include: Topeka, Wichita, Manhattan, Lawrence, Kansas City, Kan., and Garden City. Let’s benefit from their prior “live” research.

All in all, living next to domestic chickens is a pretty benign experience, and I would not care if any of my Ottawa neighbors kept hens (however, roosters would be a problem). I appreciate the opportunity to share my first-hand experience living with backyard chickens, and I am happy to share some great Green Papaya Chicken, or Hawaiian Pineapple Chicken recipes with anyone interested.

Paul Hemmerla,