Weavers Way Co-op Puts Chickens Back in Philadelphia Backyards — If Only for April 1

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PHILADELPHIA, March 31, 2014 — In honor of April Fools’ Day, the April 2014 edition of the Weavers Way Co-op newspaper, The Shuttle, has a joke front page.

Are we kidding? Not exactly. The April Fools’ Page 1 features a wish list of progress in food justice, environmental protection and social equity.

“I thought it would be fun to do an April Fools’ issue,” said Shuttle Editor Mary Sweeten. “And I thought it would be really fun if the fake stories reflected the world we wish we lived in.”

The lead story on the April Fools’ front page celebrates the legalization of backyard chickens in Philadelphia. It coincides with a real campaign the Co-op is gearing up for in 2014, in conjunction with the activist group Philadelphia Backyard Chickens, to urge City Council to reverse the 2004 ban on keeping hens at home.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, Weavers Way’s Pet Store in Mt. Airy sells about $2,500 worth of chicken feed and supplies monthly — certainly only to educational institutions, zoos and animal shelters, to owners of three-acre properties, and to people who live in the suburbs.)

“Philadelphia is way behind on this,” said Weavers Way General Manager Glenn Bergman. “All the largest cities in the United States allow backyard chickens. If I can keep chickens in Queens, why not in Mt. Airy? They eat bugs and food scraps. They provide eggs. They don’t smell and they aren’t noisy — they’re certainly no noisier than dogs.”

Bergman, a former chef (and dog lover) who knows his way around a chicken coop, wrote his monthly column for the non-April Fool’s Shuttle (which starts on Page 2) on the reasons chickens should be legal. Other municipalities, he noted, have enacted sensible flock-size, setback and chicken-welfare regulations in line with what works for more conventional pets — or horses, which are allowed in Philadelphia on properties of a quarter-acre or more. In fact, Philadelphia already has noise and nuisance ordinances that would apply to any chicken owners who let their poultry run amok.

Other “in your dreams” developments in the April Fools’ Shuttle are a ban on plastic bags, a tax on sugary sodas, an end to natural-gas fracking, legalization of gay marriage in Pennsylvania, funding for Philadelphia’s public schools and a beautiful new production kitchen for Weavers Way. We can hope, can’t we?

The Shuttle is published on the first of the month. It’s free and is available in all Weavers Way stores, at selected locations throughout Northwest Philadelphia, and via mail. A PDF replicacan be viewed at www.weaversway.coop/shuttle.

About Weavers Way: Founded in 1973 as a neighborhood buying club, “the Co-op” now encompasses two grocery stores, two specialty wellness and beauty shops and a pet store in Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill. Weavers Way is member-owned, open to the public and committed to offering quality products that are local, sustainable and nutritious. For more information, visit www.weaversway.coop.

Learn more about Philadelphia Backyard Chickens at their Facebook page, or contact head chick Maureen Breen atLegalPhillyHen@gmail.com.