July 11th, 2011 | by COREY PEIN News | Posted In: Immigration, Health, Multnomah County, City Hall

Urban Chickens: Not Just For White Yuppies

skateboard-chickenPhoto by ChrisJo at freeimageslive.co.uk. - ChrisJo

From the City of Portland's Office of Human Relations comes this heartwarming tale of an immigrant family who unwittingly exceeded Multnomah County's limits as to the number of allowable unpermitted chickens (three hens, no roosters):

On May 20, 2011, a concerned Portland resident contacted Asian Family Center (AFC). This resident had a neighbor keeping too many chickens along with at least one rooster, which routinely caused issues of nuisance and trespass.  In true neighborly Portland fashion, this resident did not wish to call law enforcement, but was concerned with how to inform her neighbors of their legal responsibilities as related to keeping chickens.  Her Cantonese neighbors spoke limited English, and this resident was hoping AFC had pamphlets and information in Cantonese about specified animal regulations to share with her neighbors. AFC did not have nor know of any such materials, and contacted the City of Portland’s New Portlanders program for assistance.

New Portlanders assigned its legal intern, Meghan Barner, who just finished the first year of her law program at Lewis & Clark, to the case.

Barner tells WW she spent a couple of weeks trying to find local animal regulations in either Cantonese or Mandarin, to no avail, and meeting with neighbors of the family in Lents.

Eventually, she says, "it was decided that another neighbor who spoke Cantonese went over with us and spoke to the neighbors."

The County's animal enforcer never had to get involved and the situation, as far as Barner knows, was resolved amicably.

"I think they had a fluctuating number of chickens," she goes on. "Sometimes the chickens escaped. At one point they had two roosters. Then only one. Then they got rid of both roosters."

Don't worry: There is a point to this story.

For Barner, it's that the county could do a better job of informing non-English-speaking residents of the rules around backyard chickens. Translated pamphlets could be distributed at Fubonn Shopping Center, for instance.

For this reporter, who has watched—and contributed—to the national urban-chicken fascination, it's merely a reminder that immigrants have long enjoyed the original white meat without basking in the buzz of chicken-chic fads like the upcoming Tour de Coops.

Also: Given that it took weeks for the city to find a Chinese speaker to visit the house, this story is also a reminder that bureaucracies will arrive at the simplest solution to any problem only after ruling out every other approach.

 
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