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Whole lotta clucking going on in cities

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The communities of Fort Collins, Colo.; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Wake Forest, N.C.; have passed laws allowing residents to keep a limited number of backyard birds. Other chicken-friendly cities include New York; Oakland, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and Salt Lake City.

Fresh eggs for breakfast aren't the only benefit of raising chickens, say hobbyists. The birds provide organic fertilizer, and their appetite for pesky weeds and bugs helps gardens thrive.

"If our economy continues on the downward spiral," says Ms. Shell, a third-generation poultry hobbyist, "you're going to see a lot more people raising their own chickens in their backyards and starting up vegetable gardens."

Still, chickens aren't always popular with neighbors in city and suburban neighborhoods.

Chicago Alderman Lona Lane proposed a citywide chicken ban late last year after constituents bombarded her office with complaints about noise, odor, and rodents. But chicken enthusiasts from other parts of the Windy City cried fowl, stalling a final decision. After the holidays, Ms. Lane plans on introducing a new bill to ban chickens in just the neighborhood she represents.

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