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Three French hens

Farmyard Fowls by painter John James Audubon.

In response to a European Union directive to divert waste from landfills, local governments across the continent have had to come up with ways to meet the target goals or else face large fines. In France, the microscopic town of Pincé (population: 206) has come up with a particularly creative and logical solution: Backyard chickens for all.

What originally began as a joke, according to the mayor of the village, turned out to be an easy and relatively inexpensive way to reduce waste. Pincé lies in the Sarthe department of France, and is located close to a large poultry-rearing area called Loué.

This is the second installment in a series called The Franco-file, stories on French happenings around Transition by Anwyn Cook, a seriously francophile high school senior from Virginia.

The eggs from Loué, as well as the free-range poultry, are known throughout France. Because Loué and Pincé are so close together, the village immediately looked to doing its own small-scale poultry as a “local solution to solve a local problem.”

Pincé’s chickens are expected to consume around 330 pounds of household food waste per year, while saving families money and giving them the freshest of eggs. Lydie Pasteau, the mayor, also hopes the cluckers will bring the tiny village even closer together, according to the BBC:

It will also reinforce community links. Just as people look after neighbor’s cats and dogs while they’re away, so they’ll also look after the chickens.

Around twenty homes have already expressed interest in the project, and each family will receive two chickens, beginning in September of this year.

The scheme has also caught on outside of France. The Belgian town of Mouscron plans to give two chickens to households with enough space to keep the birds in their gardens. Families who take part have to agree to not give the chickens away or eat them for at least two years, and will be given basic instruction on how to raise them.

Cash-strapped American cities face their own pressures to cut the costs of hauling off household waste as landfills close and tipping fees rise. Might one of the numerous localities that have legalized backyard chickens in recent years in the United States also consider subsidies or outright chicken giveaways as an innovative and cost-effective way to keep food scraps out of their own landfills while helping families enhance their food security?

– Anwyn Cook, Transition Voice

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