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Monday, October 26, 2009

Backyard Chickens: Off-the-Grid Solution or Off-the-Charts Mistake?

Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2009 at 9:36 AM

Last week, Kim Severson shined a harsh light on the dark side of urban homesteading. Her Oct. 22 New York Times piece called "When the Problems Come Home to Roost" certainly sounded like the title of a feather-weight horror pulp, but in fact, it concerned actual chickens - specifically, those raised in the Bay Area by amateur coop-tenders.

click to enlarge Seemed like a good idea at the time. - NICKSTEREO/FLICKR
  • nickstereo/Flickr
  • Seemed like a good idea at the time.
City-dwelling chicken owners buy their first hatchlings dreaming of fresh eggs, not diseases with disturbing names -- like pasty butt and fowl plague -- or an onslaught of rats and raccoons. Unfortunately, according to Severson's sources, followers of the trend should anticipate such complications and be prepared for no shortage of fatalities, some of which may relate rather directly to the extent to which a collection of cluckers -- and occasionally crowers -- irritates human neighbors.

With a different headline, this article could have appeared in The Onion: "Chickens Die Easily, Observes Local Urban Homesteader," or perhaps "Farming Much Harder Than San Francisco Landscape Architect Ever Imagined."

While we've no immediate issue to stoke with city chickens or the people who raise them, Severson's piece did quote animal-rights workers alleging that the fad has filled the cages of animal rescue organizations with unwanted roosters.

Such a shame. Roosters may not lay fancy eggs, but they're good eating all the same. A contributor to a backyard chickens forum suggests butchering roosters at around six months -- or whenever they start crowing a lot.

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Andrew Simmons

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