Does it seem like everyone you know has chickens these days? At least here in our community, which is very urban, very beachy, very chicken-y—the answer is –you guessed it, Yes. Chickens are trendy right now. Very trendy. Not one to miss out, I have three little chicks too.
When I told my father, who grew up on a ranch, he said “*$!!$#, why did you do that?” He ranted for a long time something like ….
“I cleaned chicken poop from chicken coops from the time I was three until I was 16. They are the dirtiest, dumbest animals ever.”
Really, Dad, you cleaned coops at the age of three?
Did I mention he was a rancher?
Growing up, I never remember having chickens on our ranch or our farm. Okay, maybe one time, one cowboy had some, but they didn’t last long. I remember a pig. A giant, muddy pig that I was scared of. I remember a Texas longhorn cow with brass doorknobs on the tips of her six-foot long horns. I remember lots of big red quarter horses.
I remember kittens.
Or sheep (which is like a swear word to most ranchers) Or goats (Boy, did I want a goat. I still do.)
Did I mention that my chicks are the cutest, sweetest things? I don’t care if they are dumb. I think they like me. They look at me when I talk to them; they know my voice and start peeping. They are cute even if they are losing all their down and look like little teenage messes, little punk-rock chickens, chickens that went through a dryer.
Every morning, I try to spy on them. I creep over to the door in the room where they are living in a giant plastic bin with chicken wire on the top, and I try to catch them off guard. At first as I watch, they chase each other around, they stretch their nascent wings, they stand on the water dish. Then they spy me, freeze, and start peeping.
“Hello! Hello! Hello!” I imagine them saying. “Let us out of here, we want to stretch. We want to dig up your garden. We want to parade around the yard.”
Hmm. Wonder what my Australian Shepherd will think of that? He already tried to eat one — even in his feeble, arthritic state. He watched innocently as my daughters held the chicks, and Whomp! Chomp! He tried to grab one. A lot of women started screaming. I had two grandmas here. Two little girls. Everyone started hollering at my dog, and they kicked him out of the house. Hopefully, he learned his lesson. He is very sensitive.
My mother who is from a large farming family in Ohio, said her grandmother loved her chickens. She sent her daughter to college on chicken egg money. (Don’t think my chicken eggs will pay for college these days.)
Her “little grandma” she called her as if being short had something to do with caring for chickens.
Mother seems excited for chickens, but worried too. She worries about almost everything. Now she is worried that I will kill the chickens.
Hey, mom, they lived in my office for the first week. I had conference calls with peeping chicks.
“I can hear them,” my employee said when we spoke on the phone. “Clients will think you are peeping.”
Gee. I moved them, okay? Now I can walk up and spy.
“Honey, hurry up and build the chicken coop,” I say to my husband each morning when I see how much they’ve grown overnight. Just like a baby, they grow while sleeping. (I really want a chicken coop that looks like a gypsy wagon, but I don’t think he’s willing to have that in our yard.)
Anyway, I wonder what sociologists will say years from now when they study urban farming trends in 2012. Will they say we were misguided? A chicken only lays eggs for two or three years, the book says. What will happen to all the old chickens of Point Loma? We can’t set them free by the sea shore. I certainly don’t want to eat mine when they are old. Will people relinquish them to the dog pound?
Will social scientists say this urban chicken farming trend was a yearning for a simpler life? A reaction to these tough recessionary years? Nostalgia? Most people I know get chickens once their kids reach a more independent age. That’s a weird one to think about!
It definitely seems to be fulfilling a need — the way growing flowers or vegetables meets a need to actually produce something tangible, to make something real—not a spreadsheet or a blog, but something you can touch and hold—or eat.