Re: chickens in cohousing
From: Bonnie Fergusson (
Date: Tue, 8 Jul 2008 12:14:51 -0700 (PDT)
      I agree that the issue of pets or other small animals in cohousing is one 
of the more consistently controversial issues accross communities.  I think one 
factor in how difficult this issue becomes, that is not often thought through 
sufficiently, is the issue of how much space and how different species concieve 
of "their" territories.  In our very dense, very urban community, one thing 
that became clear after move in (with a no limits on pets policy in place) is 
that while all the people had agreed to be a community the pets had not really 
been consulted and some reacted badly (from the human point of view) to the 
density of other animals they were asked to share their "territory" with.
     We basically all gave up having mats in front of our doors because they 
were so consistently pissed on by our domestic animals "marking" their 
territory.  And the pet policy which keeps evolving continues to stir up 
intense feelings periodically.  The gardners (we have a very small garden in a 
sea of concrete) were intensely unhappy about the pet urine load in the garden, 
which has created "dead zones" where anything put in that spot dies, there was 
tension between the dog and cat owners about whose pet was contributing most to 
that load, there was demonstrably too much pet feces in spite of the fact that 
everyone claimed to be cleaning up after their pet, there were complaints about 
barking, whining, etc.  Basically too many animals sharing too small a space.  
And the personality of some pets, changed in response to the stress of too many 
animals in too small a space.  This became particularly noticable when their 
owners went on vacation and
 boarded their pets elsewhere with friends in single family homes where the 
pets reverted to their previous behaviour patterns.
      We all love our pets and want to bring them with us no matter what, but 
it's clear to me (I didn't have a pet at move in although I've had them in the 
past) that there are limits to how much "crowding" different animals can easily 
tolerate and we forget that just because the people have all bought into the 
concept of sharing doesn't mean their animals have.  Obviously this issue would 
probably be less intense with more common and/or private space and more 
distance between them--which on the other hand is the opposite of what most 
cohousing design is about.  
      Even though it is practically unAmerican to think it, I now believe 
Cohousing Communities would be better off (and their pets would be better off) 
if there was a policy limiting the number of pets before move in.
              Bonnie Fergusson
              Swans Market Cohousing
              Oakland, CA


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