February 17, 2009


It started so innocently. Honestly, it did.
"Hey, what would you think about a community chicken coop?"
It wasn't even my idea. Sure I may have planted the idea somehow. Will and I had chickens in Portland and I have missed them. Their soft clucking as I worked in the garden, their funny obsession with dandelion blossoms, apparently the chicken version of catnip. I missed having them follow me around and sit on the edge of the sand pit while Evelyn dug away. So when the idea came up, I jumped. Little did I know the controversy it would cause.
A pre-walking Evie with one of our Portland Chicken - Henny Penny

We pulled together four families, found a site that was central to us all in one family's yard, designed a small coop (well, Will sketched about 40 two inch high ideas and I took the one I liked and handed it off to my neighbor who was doing the paperwork side) and submitted it to the board of architectural review. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?

Not right. The neighbors (not those involved obviously, not even really those around us, these were neighbors in the broader sense of "neighborhood") flew into an uproar. Somehow our plan for eight little hens turned into a scandal about having roosters and giant hen houses.

Articles were written in the paper, news cameras showed up, interviews were done, reinforcements were called on to come show support at the BAR meeting. We were in a panic, we were furious! What was wrong with people that they couldn't just LET US HAVE OUR CHICKENS!!!

Our three day old chicks in Portland

And then, as quickly as it began, it stopped.The BAR passed the coop with a unanimous vote and lots of off topic ( they were only supposed to be dealing with the structure, not the facts of chicken-keeping in town) banter about how great chickens were. All systems were go. No one even showed up to object. The fuss, it seemed, surrounded a lack in knowledge about chicken biology. Chickens don't need roosters to make eggs you see, but not everybody knows that. And really why should they. Just because I was lulled to sleep with John Seymour's Guide to Self Sufficiency doesn't mean everyone else was. I suppose it's just another part of the lost knowledge that modern times have brought. People don't just know how to milk a cow, or even sew on a button these days. Which is kind of sad.

Part of me hopes this economic situation we have gotten ourselves into will help people get back to their roots. I keep thinking of wartime Britain, where they dug up parks and front yards and even the moat around the Tower of London to help feed the nation. Pull together, grow your own food, help your neighbor, understand chicken ovulation. But somehow I can't see the Wall Street tycoons who lost everything they had, and everything everyone else had, digging up their manicured lawns to grow food for the masses. A girl can dream though. For now, I'm just excited that the chickens are coming.