Now that a lot of people are into backyard gardening, the next thing that comes to mind is “why not have a few chickens, too?” Since many cities have laws about not keeping livestock, there is actually an underground urban chicken movement. As you can imagine, trying to keep a yard-full of cluckers and squawkers quiet is pretty hard to do. Let’s not even talk about the cock-a-doodle-do at 5 AM. But now thanks to grassroots activist groups like Backyard Chickens more cities from Maine to Colorado are passing ordinances to allow a small number of legal hens in the yard.
When you grow your own, buy local, go to a farmer’s market or join a community supported agriculture cooperative (where you pay a set amount at the beginning of the season and get a boxful of farm grown veggies and fruit every week) farm-fresh eggs – or backyard-fresh eggs – just make it better.
It also makes it possible to not go to WalMart for your food.
In this urban apartment where I live, most of the people have had gardens, a lot of us have also had chickens, before ending up in the city. We would like nothing better than to tear up the parking lot, put in rows of corn and beans and have some chickens for eggs. It would improve the quality of everyone’s diet, too! I also took a poll of who would quit using the dryer in the laundry room if we had a clothes line and every single person said – “oh, yes! I really miss hanging my clothes on a line.” Maybe we’re a little old fashioned over here in our corner of Austin but I suspect there are a lot of people who miss the old ways even if they are too young to have actually experienced them.
Children learn valuable lessons by connecting with their food source. One of them that comes to mind is the time that a friend of mine had just received a box of newly hatched turkey chicks. It was a very cold December evening and she was worried about keeping them warm through the night. We decided to put them in the oven with only the pilot light on so it was a toasty, comfortable 80-something degrees in there. Just right for the chicks. We put them in a big roaster pan and just as we were slipping the chirping little guys into the oven, her 3 year old came hauling round the corner into the kitchen, saw what we were doing and starting screaming bloody murder! After we calmed him down, we all had a good laugh but I’ll bet he remembers that to this day.
The thing I love the most about living this way is how life flows with the weather, the seaons, and the unique character of each day. There is a close and personal connection between the earth, the sky, what you eat and how you feel. It is a feeling of completeness and reciprocity with the natural world. When you watch the rain fall on your early spring garden, when you’re on first name basis with the hen who laid the eggs you’re eating for breakfast – you get it. No words are needed. It might just be the most healing thing we can do and in the process take back control of one of our most basic needs.
Another helpful website I found was from a group in Albuquerque called Urban Chickens They are building a network of urban chicken keepers and offer help with establishing pro-chicken ordinances and laws. They also have a blog and some really down to earth advice on all things chicken.
Maybe when we turn off our dryers and put up clotheslines, put some solar panels on our roofs, dig up the front yard and put in corn and beans and run a few chickens in the back – even in the cities we can start living like we belong here again.