Image via Andover Backyard Chickens
Image via Andover Backyard Chickens

It’s not zombies and supermoons you have to worry about when getting started in self-sufficient homesteading (not yet anyway). It’s building codes and zoning ordinances. Time and time again, those who live against-the-grain or off-the-grid get pinched by well-meaning local officials. The backyard chicken group I met this weekend was a perfect example of how to correct those misguided ordinances.

After finishing a charity 5k of all things, I jogged (OK…walked) over to check out the sponsor booths. One of them was an organization called Andover Backyard Chickens. You can probably guess what its cause was about.

In an eggshell, Andover Backyard Chickens is trying to relax local zoning restrictions to allow homesteaders to keep birds inside Andover. This mostly suburban city is located a few cities out from Minneapolis. While urban homesteading is popular, Andover sits at the intersection of big city, suburban and rural lifestyles.

The situation was similar to many others across North America. But there was one important difference:

ORGANIZATION

Andover Backyard Chickens not only sponsored a 5k full of locals who could put pressure on the city, it put together a comprehensive proposal for city officials to consider. This included specific zoning suggestions, licensing suggestions (such as taking a class before getting a permit for chickens), breed information and more. It was all put neatly together in a 3-ring binder.

Additionally, Andover Backyard Chickens sported matching “Got Chickens?” T-shirts, passed out homemade brochures with backyard chicken FAQs, got a petition together, started a Facebook page and generally stuck to a few key talking points.

All this added up to an organized effort that has a great chance at beating city hall on this issue.

I mention this because, unfortunately, some self-sufficiency/preparedness groups don’t display this level of organization. They’re forgetting that successfully communicating a message requires two parts: the message itself and an effective way to get the point across. Neither is more important than the other. This matters quite a bit when it comes time to talk with media or offer testimony.

It’s no guarantee, but the kind of organization that Andover Backyard Chickens displayed is the best shot at changing things for the better.