Officials push to make Arlington more urban agricultural

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Local,Virginia,Taylor Holland

Supporters say they'd be willing to "limit [the] number of hens, prohibit roosters and help ensure secure, proper and humane enclosures" for the animals if current zoning laws are restructured.

It is legal for Arlington residents to raise chickens at their own homes, as long as the animals are at least 100 feet from both their and their neighbors' lot lines. But Walter Tejada, vice chairman of the County Board, said the rule makes it tough for residents to own chickens because the lot sizes of many Arlington homes are smaller than the required size.SClBTejada, who learned the importance of chickens early in life while growing up in El Salvador, is leading an agricultural-friendly charge in Arlington to promote rooftop gardens, water collection barrels, knowledge about food production and even pet chickens.

As uncommon as backyard hens may sound, Traci Torres, chief eggsecutive officer at MyPetChicken.com, said raising chickens is a growing national trend.

Those against raising chickens often cite a fear of rats, but Torres said using weave-size wire mesh and keeping the chickens' feed in a metal bucket will deter rats and other rodents. "They make good pets," she said.

And although Tejada is pleased to see Arlington residents urging lawmakers to amend county restrictions that make it difficult to own chickens, he said he hopes they embrace all aspects of the area's push to become a more urban agricultural society.

"The chickens are just a small part of the big picture," he said. "There isn't just one issue here."

Still, Tejada is especially hopeful Arlington residents will learn to embrace the importance of backyard hens, just as he did as a child.

"We've become detached from our human connection to the land," Tejada said of the effects of modern-day urbanization. "I think we need to reacquaint ourselves."

tholland@washingtonexaminer.com

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