City Backyards Become Homes to Chickens and Their Eggs

Thousands of families are raising backyard chickens.

Sept. 22, 2010 — -- Amy Boyd's children are city kids. In the front yard, they skateboard and color the sidewalk with chalk, but in the backyard they run with the chickens.

The Boyds raise six chickens at their Springfield, Mo., home that provide fresh eggs every day. "We like knowing where our eggs come from," Boyd said.

With executives from two egg farms implicated in this summer's massive egg recall and salmonella outbreak appearing before a congressional panel today, community leaders say it's no wonder thousands of families from Portland, Ore., to Brooklyn, N.Y., are raising backyard chickens.

Bob Hosmer, the city planner of Springfield City, Mo., researched urban chickens and issued a report to the city council proposing a change to the city code to allow chickens to be raised in backyards.

Hosmer said it was a national trend and positive for the community.

"It's just going back to basics," he said. "You're reducing traffic, reducing trips to the grocery store. We have a lot of people doing urban gardens, putting vegetables in their backyard into production where they're selling or giving fruits and vegetables to a neighbor."

Though Springfield currently does not allow backyard chickens, families like the Boyds have them. City Councilman Dan Chiles supports the move.

"It makes our city move livable. It makes our city more practical. It gives better food options for people," he said. "A lot of people have come to us and said, 'I want chickens.' I'm just inclined to go, 'Yes, ma'am.'"

"There's an increased awareness and increased interest in people wanting to grow, manage where their food comes from and chickens are part of that," said Bill Ruppert, who raises more than a dozen hens with his wife. He built a two-story coop, which he's had for years, in his suburban St. Louis backyard. "They're just an integral part of our life," he said of the chickens.

Chris and Maura Martin, who live nearby, said their chickens were popular with neighbors. Their daughters, Kylie, 6, and Fiona, 8, collect eggs every day from the backyard coop.

Jerri Villareal, who lives in a St. Louis suburb, and her family are raising six chickens. "It's easier than a dog," she said.

"I have control over how clean I keep the coop," Villareal said. "Whether they get grass fed or if I give them organic feed."

Annalee Chappell raises six chickens and listed the perks. "They're free. There's an unlimited supply," she said. "The other nice thing is these are mosquito and bug eaters."

Chappell said raising chickens was not complicated. "If you keep up with it, it's not hard. ... It's very, very easy. ... I enjoy spending my time out here with the birds, but it's much like gardening. There's upkeep," she said. "It's a pleasant experience. I love it. I absolutely love it."

Springfield Mayor Jim O'Neal attributed the move to raise chickens in urban areas across the U.S. to a desire to be more self-reliant.

"What happened in 2007, and '08 and '09, has left an indelible mark on many people who thought the old economy was never going to end," he said. "It's been a rough three years. I think that has changed the thinking of a lot of people."

He said even his wife wants to raise chickens. "I think I'm going to vote yes," O'Neal said.

ABC News' Erin Hayes contributed to this article.