Harrington Park has a small but growing flock of chicken keepers, who enjoy the pleasures and benefits of quirky pets that make our fertilizer and our breakfasts.
The HP Board of Health gives its blessing to the keeping of small flocks, under sanitary, neighborly, bird-friendly conditions, with the renewal of an annual license.
For this and other reasons, chicken keeping is no longer considered a socially marginal nuisance, and can be enjoyed as a way of connecting us to a source of endless wonder and outdoor entertainment, and a way to talk to our children about sustainability and food.
Though keeping chickens is relatively simple on a daily basis, it requires advance preparation and a commitment to ongoing learning. Fortunately, flockster neighbors and newbie-friendly online communities like Backyardchickens.com make trading information and support easier than ever.
The coop is the biggest expense involved, and the choice should be guided by the plan about how to keep and tend the birds. Chicken owners with fenced-in yards can let their birds range, more or less as they were meant to live, and will need a smaller set-up than those whose birds will be confined to a coop and run 24-7.
Either way, selecting a coop designed and built by someone who knows chickens is vital; a trendy, adorable coop is not necessarily predator-proof, and stories of first-night carnage are not uncommon. Foxes, opossums, weasels, raccoons, hawks, and coyotes all live in town and prey on chickens, and especially if you allow your birds the run of your yard, you must be able to tolerate the occasional loss. On the positive side, your birds will be happier and healthier, and you will become more attuned to natural phenomena, like death, raptor migration, and the amazing persistence of creatures that live by their wits.
The anxiety in keeping chickens as outdoor pets is arguably offset by the satisfactions. Tending the birds in the morning and evening is an outdoor ritual to appreciate, even in unfavorable weather. We enjoy the minor chicken squabbles, real life egg hunts, and beautiful spectrum of eggs our birds bring into our lives. Receiving a box filled with peeping day-old chicks through the mail is something to look forward to for months, and watching a broody hen accepting and tucking foster chicks under her wings is unforgettable.
To chat about chickens, email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
(photo by Craig Thomas)