Chickens chillin' in the backyard

A year and a half ago, on my birthday, I went to a program called “Wits.” The featured guest was Susan Orlean and the topic was chickens. The hosts seemed to assume that chickens are such an inherently funny topic, they wouldn’t need to prepare much. Luckily, Orlean had plenty to say on the subject.

Orlean published an article in The New Yorker two years ago called, “The It Bird,” which details the recent exponential increase of urban chicken owners. As Orlean notes, chicken-owning was quite common until the 1950s, since the animals are so hardy, easy to care for, and productive (a hen in her laying years provides an egg every 1-2 days). Yet, in the 1950s, everyone wanted to be modern and anything hinting of agriculture was antithetical to modernity.

And now everyone wants chickens again. The word locavore became popular in 2007, along with its way of life: eating food that comes from a 100-mile radius from where you live. Many people interpret this by growing their own small garden of fruits, vegetables, and herbs, but what better way to complete the meal with eggs from your backyard?

My neighbors were on the cutting edge of the chicken-trend, and built a decidedly elegant coop and run several years ago when remodeling their garage. Fifteen chickens now call this coop home. I was anxious about providing daily care for the hens while my neighbors are on vacation, but I find myself already enjoying the domesticity of collecting eggs, putting out feed, and shooing the girls inside at night. It’s probably a long leap from taking care of a few pretty hens to the harsh realities of the farming life, but maybe I wouldn’t be so bad at it after all.

Here’s Susan Orlean at Wits, reading from her article¬†The It Bird: