Backyard Chickens aren’t just for farms anymore.
A recent email chain sent out to Hancock Park block captains had this subject line: “Chicken Wandering on 4th & Rimpau.”
That was followed a couple weeks later with another neighborhood email: “Chicken hens on Hudson and 2nd. Pets?”
No longer limited to farms and factories, backyard chickens have come home to roost in LA. And, yes, they do fly the coop sometimes.
So why has the backyard chicken movement taken off? It all starts with the chicken… or is it the egg?
Paying rent in eggs
Give a chicken a warm dry coop, food and water, and she’ll pay her portion of the rent in delicious eggs. Sorry boys, no roosters needed for hens to deliver the goods.
Those magical orange yolks are considered nature’s best sauce. The egg is so beloved that the grocer’s selection has ballooned to include free range, cage-free, pasture raised, veg-fed… what’s next? Massaged-daily and well-groomed?
If you’re lucky enough to collect your eggs in a basket and not a shopping cart, they won’t require refrigeration. The Almighty Chicken Design Team created a bird whose body coats each egg with a seal, called the bloom, that protects the egg from bacteria. So while commercial eggs must be refrigerated because the bloom has been washed off, homegrown eggs can be stored on a cool countertop until it’s time to rinse off and crack.
Depending on the breed, chickens can lay up to 300 eggs per year. That’s a lot of omelets! And extra eggs make great gifts should a neighbor complain that the clucking is drowning out the sound of their gas leaf blower.
Chickens and gardening go together even better than chicken and rice.
A backyard flock will scratch and aerate the soil, turn a compost, eat the weeds and the bugs. Chickens love kitchen scraps. Toss them leftovers and they’ll squawk love songs. Hand feed them spaghetti and they’ll go berserk over the “white worms.” Remember chickens will eat almost anything, so don’t feed them chicken… ick!
Chicken droppings are excellent for composting. Chicken manure is to compost as couples therapy is to marriage. A scoop of poop adds richness to an already great compost heap. But if the heap wasn’t good to begin with, it’s just a pile of crap.
Not just pets
Chickens need people to take care of them because they are a slow-running, low-flying, delicious meat entrée on two feet. Everything wants to eat them (dogs, cats, hawks, coyotes) so they need shelter and care if they are to avoid becoming sushi McNuggets.
Alan Bernstein of Rimpau Blvd. and his children Isaac, Naomi and Natalie, take care of six egg-laying pets. The Bernsteins love the daily eggs but they also enjoy a rich experience with their pet chickens, all of whom have names.
“I wanted my kids to understand that animals provide more than sentimental attachment. They also provide nourishment,” said Bernstein.
Robert Seidler of Hudson Avenue whose backyard also boasts a flock said, “It’s Easter for my daughter, Vitoria, every morning.”
This symbiotic relationship between chickens and their people is a great lesson for kids of any age. The chicken life cycle, so elementary and fragile, is often short and sweet, lending invaluable lessons to those who care for them.
I should know. My family has been taught a lesson or two by Sissy (RIP our gorgeous hen who was really a gorgeous-but-loud rooster), Scruff Rock (RIP our tiniest hen who was yummiest to hawks), Lucky (RIP our lovely but unlucky bird) and our current flock: Emperor, Chirp,
Peep, Charlie Jumpy, Chestnut, Millie and Mine.
Thank you all, ladies.
By Renee Ridgeley, California Greenin’