It might be due to the economy. It might be due to the "natural foods" movement. It might be due to pressure from otherwise law-abiding citizens who have been seduced into illicit behavior by the lure of fresh eggs.
At any rate, earlier this spring our town considered an ordinance that would allow residents to keep chickens in their yards. The proposal was defeated, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it come around again.
Even though I am not a fan of chickens until they're cooked, this seems like a good idea to me. A handful of hens would be less aggravating to one's neighbors than a couple of Chihuahuas or a pit bill. It makes sense to have back yards used for something practical rather than just a place to water the grass and fertilize the grass so you have to mow the grass. Not to mention the appeal of having fresh eggs for the price of some vegetable peelings and a little chicken feed.
Of course, having fresh tomatoes from one's own garden is appealing, too, and we all know some of the pitfalls that lie between that particular idea and the reality. No doubt raising chickens would be the same.
In our case, for example, we have a huge back yard with ample grass in its natural state—even more natural since the lawn mower broke last fall. Theoretically, half a dozen hens could find a wonderful home out there.
I’m sure some of our neighbors would love the idea. The red fox who lives in the gully, for example. Mountain lions probably wouldn't bother much with chickens, but you never know. A fat hen now and then might be a tempting morsel and a nice change from venison. The money-saving aspect of raising chickens for the eggs would pretty much be wiped out if we had to lay in (if you'll pardon the expression) a fresh supply of hens every week or so.
Then there would be the issue of keeping the flock fed and watered when we're traveling. I suppose, in exchange for the eggs, it might be possible to find someone to look after them. We’d just need to enunciate very carefully when we asked if they’d be willing to chicken-sit.