C'est Chic(kens)
September 18, 2004 6:12 PM   Subscribe

B'gawk! It may sound a bit like a joke, but forget about merely watching webcams, or playing with subservient facsimilies. Join the urban farming movement and do it for real. Martha Stewart does it, Hollywood producers make movies about it, and now even hipsters are doing it too: they're raising chickens in urban and suburban backyards. Coops range from the eggs-spensive but low-maintenance "HenSpa" to tricked-out Home Depot sheds to faux-gingerbread cottages to the very cool iMac-style "eglu". Surprisingly, it's usually legal to keep chickens in most areas as long as you only keep hens and no rooster (too noisy), but even in anti-chicken cities like NYC, it goes on in secret and remains legal on public property. And you can always buy your neighbors' silence with fresh eggs. Poultry Power to the People!
posted by Asparagirl (27 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Guess who's considering getting two Rhode Island Reds? Their droppings can fertilize my vegetable garden, and in turn, they'll eat garden clippings and scraps. Mother Nature at its best.

Now I just need to find the (reasonably-priced) house--and avoid making incriminating posts on MetaFilter, since backyard chickens are common but technically outlawed in Los Angeles.
posted by Asparagirl at 6:17 PM on September 18, 2004

Too cool. If only I had a yard.

Reminds me of Old Law Farm from Little, Big.
posted by kenko at 6:38 PM on September 18, 2004

New York is anti-chicken?

Tell that to the place where I had fried chicken the other night. Not to mention the cock-fighters up in the Bronx.
posted by jonmc at 6:41 PM on September 18, 2004

I lived near a fenced-in vacant lot in Brooklyn that looked like a prison exercise yard for chickens. There was one big, mean, world champeen looking rooster and a smaller bird (sparring partner) for him to have his way with.
posted by crank at 6:46 PM on September 18, 2004

It'd be sweet to have a near downtown house with a couple of chickens, a goat, and maybe a duck in the backyard, but still a great view of the skyline. Something worth working for. Sweet link(s), Asparagirl.
posted by Ufez Jones at 7:32 PM on September 18, 2004

My sister keep chickens which used to be prolific egg-layers. But, now that their egg production has diminished, she refuses to wring their necks - in part due to to the fact that her gun fancying husband also loves birds and so refuses to wring their necks.

He eats birds though - chicken and turkey both.

Go figure.
posted by troutfishing at 7:55 PM on September 18, 2004

I grew up on Long Island. North shore of Suffolk county. Doesn't get much more suburbia than that. We had 3/4 of an acre I believe. My mom and sisters had chickens, ducks, a goose, milking goats, and at some point my dad had a pig. We had a sizealbe garden too.
I was in my teenage "not doing anything with the family" mode at that point, but did manage to contribute some healthy crops of mary jane a few years running. I started the seedlings on the roof, and would slowly matriculate them into the garden and other areas of the yard. I even turned my closet into a grow room by use of a 4 ft grow light.
Now my mom lives near Saratoga. She has 102 acres of land, an old house, 2 big barns, some goats, many more sheep than goats. Chickens, for laying and meat birds, 2 Peacocks that make horrendous noise at times, usually at night. She also had a cow a few years ago. We ate it. It was good. She has had pigs as well. They taste good too.
Nothing is as whacked as the time my brother and I and 3 of my sisters and my mom had to kill and clean the chickens though. Like 50 of them.
My mother participates in open air farmers markets, spins wool, sells free range chickens, and around easter I believe she sellls the odd baby goat or two for some people who eat them.
I am not much into the animals. Never liked them much growing up. Love the plants though. I had 7 foot tomato plants this year. They were crazy.
My brother, who still lives on Long Island, has some chickens in his backyard. Proving that genetics always wins out. I however, resist.
Animals are nice, but in moderation I think. My mom has waaaaay too much going on, and has trouble keeping up with it, as she is a full time nurse to boot. So, we wind up going and doing what we can, when we can.

Sorry for the rambling on there. I am tired.
posted by a3matrix at 8:16 PM on September 18, 2004

I really want chickens but have been told that they're not allowed in my city. Plus, my boyfriend won't hear of it. *sigh*
posted by PigAlien at 8:23 PM on September 18, 2004

PigAlien - I bet you can do volunteer time for a3matrix's mom. She could repay you in eggs and dead chickens.
posted by troutfishing at 8:50 PM on September 18, 2004

I have had chickens for pets and eggs. You must design their environment against raccoons and dogs, otherwise it will end badly. I was quite bonded to my last chicken, Oscar. When it comes to chickens, raccoons have a IQ of 180. A surprise visit by a visitors dog crippled Oscar and I had to put him down.
posted by JohnR at 8:56 PM on September 18, 2004

There are no chickens allowed in my city, but I have friends with a humane, free-range chicken farm and I can say that the eggs fresh from their chickens are a million times better than store bought eggs, even the expensive organic ones I'm used to buying.

I would totally have chickens if I could (and I'd ask Bryan to design me a coop like this one he made).
posted by mathowie at 9:05 PM on September 18, 2004

metafilter - "No chickens allowed (in this city)"
posted by troutfishing at 9:13 PM on September 18, 2004

My sister's now barren, ornamental chickens also attracted an escaped exotic guinea-fowl that lords over them. It's an exotic southerly bird on the lam.

posted by troutfishing at 9:16 PM on September 18, 2004

I'm fortunate enough to live in the country.... and I've always had chickens running around in the yard. The foxes and coyotes keep them from overpopulating, and I get fresh eggs and meat for the pot.
But what I REALLY enjoy are my guineas.... those little jewels eat every tick, flea, grasshopper, cricket, and ant that they find.... and they make GREAT watchdogs. Any time someone drives up to the house, they start screaming and hollerin' like crazy.
Guineas are terribly noisy... but after a while, it gets to be kind of nice to sit out on the porch and listen to them.
posted by bradth27 at 9:37 PM on September 18, 2004

I don't want to rain on anyone's chickens, but this seems to be becoming something of a Hot Surburban Trend, and I am made nervous by them (HST's, not chickens). As a result, I think a lot of well-intentioned people are going to accidentally kill a lot of chickens, sad to say.

There's a sort of whimsical tone to much of this, but raising chickens is hard work, and I would encourage anyone seriously considering this to read the various essays E. B. White wrote about it, collected in One Man's Meat. Chicken-raising technology is much improved since his day, but the initial outlay do to it right could get expensive and difficult, for not a lot of reward. Chickens need warmth, they need space to roam, they need winter food sources, and they need lots of protection from predators. If they spend most of their time in a very small garden, you probably won't, because chickenshit isn't an insult without reason, and you'll be ankle deep in it. And, if you're anywhere near people who like to sleep in, it's going to take a lot more than eggs to keep relations neighborly.

Maybe everyone considering it here is responsible enough to do this correctly, but if you're the sort who likes to take long holidays or have totally lazy weekends, this isn't for you. It's funny -- my grandma really thought she had it made when she moved to town and no longer had to keep (and kill, and pluck) chickens. She'd be totally mystified by the idea that anyone would volunteer for this, and after hearing her stories, I admit I am too.
posted by melissa may at 9:46 PM on September 18, 2004

Aw, melissa may, don't be such a grumpy gus - let the chicken-coopers have their fun. It's not like they could be contributing to the most dangerous pandemic of this century or anything.
posted by soyjoy at 10:33 PM on September 18, 2004

Sorry, soyjoy, it's a family tradition. You should hear how cranky grandma gets when the 1918 flu pandemic comes up in casual conversation.

I mean, before that, she only thought cleaning chickenshit was going to kill her.

posted by melissa may at 10:51 PM on September 18, 2004

I've read somewhere that US chicken production was consciously promoted in the early 1900's, and that chicken was once expensive and considered quite a delicacy.

How low the lowly domestic foul hath now fallen.


I'll just beat up on dumb, defenseless chickens, watch me....

"I don't want to rain on anyone's chickens...." - would their mouths be open like turkeys of urban legend ?

My yard-fowl (turkeys) are occasional, huge, wild, smart, vicious and - probably - lean and tasty. They travel in big packs, and so I'd need a machine gun or at least a nail-studded baseball bat to take on those fuckers.

Otherwise they'd have my liver for breakfast.

posted by troutfishing at 11:34 PM on September 18, 2004

Someone in the area around my dad's house is keeping chickens -- we know this because one of them showed up in our backyard one afternoon and refused to leave for several weeks.

It built a nest under one of our bushes, laid eggs, and seemed to be quite happy there. So my brother bought it some feed, I threw together something resembling a coop out of a bunch of branches and leaves, and we let it be happy.

Of course, right after I went to all that effort of building it a coop, it ran away, probably back to the family that raised it, but what can you do?

Ducks are more fun to raise anyway -- you can get a little kiddie pool for them and they have a great time.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:07 AM on September 19, 2004

When it comes to chickens, raccoons have a IQ of 180.

I just want to point out what a lovely little turn of phrase that was.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:03 AM on September 19, 2004

When I lived here (Alabama) the last time, my mother had chickens, roosters, turkey hens and a tom or two. She also had guineas. Most of all I miss the guineas.

The chickens were great, eggs, Sunday dinner and all. The guineas were the most gregarious of all the birds on the compound. Henry the goose notwithstanding.

Henry was my father's goose, her name of course, should have been Henrietta, but who can tell?

Did I have a point here?

Yes! It ROCKS to live in the country! (Well, most of the time, until a hurricane comes through, and you're the last of the last to get your power back!)
posted by kamylyon at 5:58 AM on September 19, 2004

There's a sort of whimsical tone to much of this, but raising chickens is hard work

If it's hard work raising chickens, perhaps you are doing it the wrong way. We ARE talking about a few yardbirds here, right?

You build a coop, you throw them some chicken feed every day, and you clean out the coop every once in a while. No big deal, really.
Of all the animals that I raise on my property, chickens are by far the easiest to maintain. For instance - compared to cattle, chickens are worry-free.
posted by bradth27 at 7:28 AM on September 19, 2004

Asparagirl - you should talk to your neighbors to see if they are 'loosing' cats - coyotes are a HUGE (but almost never seen) issue in LA, and you don't ever want to see what a chicken coop looks like after a coyote or a fox gets into it.

Feathers and blood everywhere ...
posted by Jos Bleau at 7:48 AM on September 19, 2004

Sorry bradth27, those weren't my chickens. They were my grandma's. But I sure felt sorry for her by the time she was done telling me about what she had to do for them, and she's a tough old bird herself, and not wont to complain unless she's got reason.

Also, I was thinking less of rural space than of city space, and less of people experienced with livestock than of hobbyists. Everything about this sounds hard when I think of it happening on a 6 x 6 balcony, with your neighbor's space immediately adjacent. I guess weather wouldn't be a big concern in some regions, but I think of my highly-scheduled friends in Brooklyn raising chickens in December, and I shudder -- for the chickens.
posted by melissa may at 9:11 AM on September 19, 2004

Me, I want bunnies in my yard. The cute ones, little roundshaped ones with the small ears, fluffy fur, and little hops.

I don't know if I'd ever be able to treat them as meat, though.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:49 AM on September 19, 2004

Chickens and guineas and bunnies,

Oh My!
posted by kamylyon at 12:58 PM on September 19, 2004

My friends Lolly Buns and Tony MtBoney bought two hens this summer, little fluffy ones. They built a dog house sized henhouse with a small wire cage run. It's painted purple and green and, decorated with flowers and a little picket fence all around, looks like a doll's house. Set in their tiny urban garden, it's like a layout on the cover of some magazine on Crispin Glover's coffee table. Lolly dotes on them, but once you have everything set up, they are no harder to care for than a cat.
posted by roboto at 1:33 PM on September 19, 2004

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