GUEST BLOG: Getting Started with Urban Chickens By Dennis Lynch
Dennis Lynch has been around the outdoors his entire life and understands what a “good time” entails. But in this addition to Filson Life, Dennis explains why starting an urban chicken coop isn’t always a “good time” but fruitful in the end.
Our family voted “not unanimously” to look into getting some chickens for home egg production and/or entertainment. We soon learned there is an entire subculture of urban chickenites throughout the country. There are numerous websites giving you ideas on what kind of chickens to get. There are both physical and psychological descriptions of these yardbirds. What color of egg, the size of the bird and the eggs, (I can’t remember which came first,) their adaptability to the urban environment, are they loud ‘cluckers’ or more demure. Everything or every characteristic you wanted to know about, and some you didn’t, is easily available with a few clicks of the mouse. Not only about the chickens themselves, but websites on the housing and accommodations that are available.
When construction started on the coop, it began to take on the appearance of some cross between Noah’s ark and a Louisiana duck blind. I said, mostly to myself, that this stunt would have the neighbors, who were driving by very slowly looking in disbelief, finally convinced that our family was truly cracked, no pun intended. Hank, the dissenting son, assured me that that decision had been reached long ago, i.e.: out of control bonfires, pig roasts, and the fried turkey fiasco at the block party that proved that peanut oil will, in fact, ignite.
I tried to use all my purported dog training skills on these birds, but short of installing a buried electric fence and fitting all the ‘girls’ with shock collars, all efforts to keep the chickens contained, failed. They dug holes, which we refilled, they flew, and wings were clipped, they were enticed with gourmet bird seed, but they preferred the neighbors’s cat food, and they were discouraged with soft air gun pellets, but nothing worked. The neighbors were plied with fresh eggs to try to buy their silence, but soon the ranks were broken. We were busted by the “cat people” next door. The zoning regulation officer paid us a visit. We were cited for having more than 12 birds, and not having them completely and always maintained in an enclosure. The chicken police had come due to continued complaints from one neighbor. Violations cited were cat food pilfering, bird feeders being raided, and most damning, the “soiling” of their driveway and Martha Stewart patio furniture. Seems that chicken droppings clash with this spring’s Enchantment fabric.
With John Law on our tail, and a rainy forecast for the weekend, Filson came into play. Filson rain gear came out along with upland waterproof Filson boots, Filson leather gloves were used to string wire and plug holes in the perimeter fence. Another item that came in handy was the foul weather duck hunting hat. Pun intended. Neither rain nor mud kept us from answering every 911 call that was received about our girls. The hardest part was getting the escapees back into the yard. Any Heisman Trophy candidate would be well advised to study the moves of the chicken on the run, and any defensive back would sharpen his skills trying to tackle one of these three pound speed burners. As of this writing, the defense of the perimeter has been successful for eleven days running. Our orchard side yard now resembles Attica, and we figure each dozen eggs only cost $50. The Filson gear, as usual, is ready for any breach of security from out feathered warriors.