Saturday, March 21, 2009

two types of urban chicken owners: which one are you?

I'm catching up on my reading about urban chicken news across the country (you can, too: "urban chickens" feed on Google News), and I came across a piece published this past week in the New Haven Advocate called A Chicken in Every Yard.

Evidently, there are quite a few illegal flocks in New Haven, Connecticut, and this story's a bit of an exposé into the hows and whys of keeping chickens in one's backyard.

The author, Betsy Yagla, covers a lot of ground in her story about the urban chicken movement. It's stuff we've all heard before and can recognize in ourselves, but then Yagla drops this bombshell:
There are two groups of urban chicken farmers — the low-income, mostly immigrant group that keeps chickens as a side business by selling extra meat and eggs. This group doesn't always limit their flock to a half dozen hens. They're mainly kept as livestock, not pets.

The other group is upper-class environmentalists who keep boutique hens as pets, but eat or share the eggs with friends.
Beg pardon?

I had to re-read the article to make sure Yagla wasn't just describing the New Haven urban chicken farmers. She wasn't. This is how she sees all us urban chicken keepers as falling neatly into one of two groups. Immigrant law-breakers or well-to-do show-bird keepers.

The family here behind this blog are not upper-class, and we definitely don't have "boutique hens" in our backyard. Our ancestors immigrated to the States many generations ago (but we're all immigrants, no?), yet we manage to abide by the laws for keeping chickens here in Redwood City. We're keeping chickens as pets for the eggs and the poop and the entertainment and the education.

What kind of urban chicken keeper (or wannabe) are you?

14 comments:

centraldad said...

File our family as type: Having fun while modeling to our kids that everything comes from somewhere (in this case, eggs!) and we CAN reduce our carbon footprint by making a conscientious choice to BE the cycle we want the product from! Oh, and having the happiest, healthiest and best dang looking birds on the block!

Alex said...

Our family is half Mayflower descendant, half first generation Indian immigrant. We live in a white working class neighborhood. While contemplating finally getting a few chickens earlier this week, I actually said to my wife that if the neighbors got chickens they'd just be the goofy hippies with chickens, whereas we would be the immigrants with barnyard animals in the backyard, even though we're just as much the goofy hippies as they are.

Yanna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Yanna said...

I would sell the eggs if I could realistically keep more chickens on my tiny city lot.

I keep chickens for 1. ethical eggs, 2. scat for my garden and 3. education for my homeschooled child.

I am not middle or upper income, I am fourth generation American, I prefer heritage breeds (and heirloom vegetables - Go Genetic Diversity!) and yes, my poultry is illegal.

BTW, ducks get short schrift in the advocacy department. Our Cayuga drakes are quiet, control the insect population in our yard, fertilize as they wander and are wonderfully entertaining.

Pamela said...

I dearly wish I could have chickens....but I need a room mate or something before I can dive in. (one that likes them too)
I travel a lot.....and I wouldnt have anyone to take over when I traveled.

I am in North Coast california now, and moving to CS this summer or fall. I am dreaming I can begin some sort of Chicken house.....even if its just one or two. I LOVE CHICKENS!

Thanks for a great blog!
Pam
http://phawkinsbead.blogspot.com/

Meadowlark said...

I'm a wannabe plain old cop's wife. Not rich, not poor, miss the ranch I grew up on and am fairly certain that control of our food systems is just another step in the nanny-ization of our country.

So, I guess that means I'm a doomer-chick who fears government intervention and doubts that the FDA really gives a crap about us! :)

Thomas Kriese said...

Centraldad, Alex, Yanna, Pamela and Meadowlark:

Thanks for sharing your stories here.

It's so wonderful to get to know you all! Nice to know we're all "breaking the mold" in our urban chicken owning (or wanting) ways.

Punky's Mamma said...

I'm an "Aussie Stay at home Mum wanting to keep chickens for fun, comfort, eggs, manure & education" type...

...hmmm, that doesn't fit into either category does it?! ;)

cyclingchicken said...

Hmmm...We have 42 birds(all with names), but we do eat the roosters and eggs. We have them for food and definitely for entertainment value. Chicken rugby is are favorite. Our reasonings are a mixture of financial, ethical, learning and just plain addiction. :)

Linda said...

Considering that I just brought my "accidental rooster" to get slaughtered today and he's now sitting in my fridge, I guess I'm solidly in between those two types.

Charles said...

I just wanted to post a video about other people who are trying to be urban farmers. Just thought you and your readers might be interested:

http://www.americasheartland.org/episodes/episode_418/urban_agriculture.htm

Kim and Victoria said...

We're planning on joining the urban chick owners soon; for the fun and the healthy eggs. In our area we can have 3 hens.

Meg said...

My husband and I are just a couple of green-minded yuppies who love our two sweet Rhodies and the taste of fresh eggs.

blownaway said...

My husband and I are both children of immigrants. Like many current chicken owners, we both had chickens growing up (mine for slaughter, his for eggs). Financially we are comfortable, although the recession does keep us on our toes. We decided awhile back that we would make our backyard food-producing instead of ornametal. Chickens just came naturally, as part of that decision.

Our 2 year old daughter now knows where eggs come from, and she goes outside to the coop everyday to collect them. We are too disconnected from our food here in the USA, and I think it's why we have so much obesity. I'm not sure people would eat half the junk they ate if they really knew where it came from.

We have chickens for the excellent fertilizer they provide, for their pest-control qualities in the garden, and of course for the eggs. They are just another part of our backyard farm, nothing more and nothing less.

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