August 4, 2009
My Backyard Chicken Craze
The New York Times finally got around to writing about the backyard chicken- raising craze, which makes it official: there’s a backyard chicken-raising craze.
My own personal backyard chicken raising craze started a bit earlier, in June of 1992.
Naomi and I were living in a ground floor apartment on Beverly Ave. in the Ocean Park section of Santa Monica—the same apartment where I discovered her tuna cans and potato chips. We had been married a year.
The apartment was on the ground floor on a hill facing the ocean. The front yard was covered in English ivy, a haven for rats and an eternal resting place for soda cans and beer bottles tossed from passing cars. We didn’t have kids then, but we had a beagle, which is like having octoplets. Sophie the beagle needed a place to run and play and poop off leash, but it had to be fenced—beagles are the David Blaines of the dog world.
The landlord, a congregant of Naomi’s, said I could fence the front yard in. Once that was done, I thought: chickens.
Actually, I thought chickens…eggs. Why not?
I finally had a little land in my adult life, and I’d always wanted to be able to eat my own fresh eggs.
So I bought a pamphlet-sized book, Chickens in Your Backyard, went to Malibu Feed Bin, picked out three chicks, and began.
One of those chickens died, one disappeared and one we gave away when we moved to Venice, and set about raising two small children instead.
Then, about three years ago, I decided it was time to bring chickens back into my life. I bought a self-contained, English made chicken coop, the Omlet, purchased three grown live chickens from a butcher shop, and began again.
It is easy to raise chickens. The craze deserves to be upgraded to a trend, and the trend to just a thing people do. With the right equipment (I’ll get to that), a few chickens require hardly any effort, and they reward you, unlike beagles, with the best eggs you will ever taste.
But it’s not just about eggs.
I check on the chickens even when I know there won’t be an egg in the nest. I wander out there after I get home from work. I see them in the morning as I sip my yerba mate (it will be the next big thing, yerba mate. I was way ahead of the curve on chickens and I’m ahead on this, too….).
The truth is, the chickens calm me. I watch them being satisfied with their lot— their stretch of fenced in yard, their wood chips and straw, their laying mash and water—and I try to absorb that ability, to be happy with my lot. At least, I assume they’re happy. They have different clucks, and the one I hear most frequently I associate with contentedness. Maybe every time they scratch in the ground and peck and come up empty they feel grave disappointment, and their cluck means, “Oh, Shit!” like a the cry of a screenwriter hearing a steady streams of rejections. I don’t know, They have it all and they seem happy. They loll in the dirt and fan their wings in the sun. Watching them do that doesn’t give me eggs, but it feeds my soul.
Tomorrow: More hardcore chicken info. This is a blog after all.