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Chickens in Denver neighborhoods: City Council takes on the urban homesteading clusterpluck

The fight over the current urban homesteading movement can sometimes seem as heated as the battles between homesteaders and cattle ranchers on the frontier 130 years ago.

And the feathers will be flying tonight at Denver City Council chambers, as members consider putting a chicken in every plot.

The move to turn city back yards (and sometimes front yards) into mini-farms has spread across the country, inspiring a host of skinny-jeans sustainability fans to turn into Mr. Greenjeans. At the same time, the movement has fertilized a bumper crop of neighborhood disputes and a few legal threats, including one against Denver's James Bertini, who dared to have a Facebook page called Denver Urban Homesteading when a California outfit claimed to have exclusive rights to the words "urban homesteading."

We doubt the Dervaes Institute will be at Denver City Council tonight. But you can bet dozens of residents will be on hand as representatives debate the proposed changes to the zoning code that would allow residents to own up to eight chickens or ducks -- but no male birds -- and up to two dwarf goats without having to get the special permit required now. Instead, they'd just need to pay $20 for a onetime license, and guarantee that the animals had the required shelter and square footage (sixteen square feet per chicken).

Councilmembers began debating the proposed ordinance last Monday -- when Bertini arrived wearing a chicken suit. While some residents are pushing to limit the number of birds to four or six, Bertini would like to expand the measure to allow the slaughter of the animals on the premises, arguing that it's more "sustainable."

That should get some neighbors' blood boiling. The political clusterpluck gets under way at 5:30 p.m. on the fourth floor of the Denver City and County Building.

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