Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Chickens Next Door

This little beauty is waiting for visitors^

Here's the harvest, the urban harvest^

Happy chickens (including that gorgeous rooster in the middle) all around^

Dewey and Sheila have about a dozen chickens in a pen he built a couple of months ago, next door to our house in Raleigh Court. When Dewey started the project, I thought maybe he was building a utility building, like the one he and I put together a few years ago in the back yard of my house--the one Christina calls the "Taj Ma Tool."

But no, Dewey was investing about God knows how much money and time into a lovely little building and fenced area to take care of fewer than a dozen of what I take to be Orpington chickens, pretty little gals who are brown, shiny, friendly and not especially loud. Their rooster pal was pretty vigorous, but I haven't seen him for a couple of days, so I figure Dewey has taken him to the property in Craig County for a breather. That boy could cock-a-doodle-do all night long--and did.

I hadn't thought much about chickens in a while--live ones anyway--until we saw "Food Inc." a couple of months ago and got the impression that what we were eating when we were avoiding beef was these poor, miserable, genetically altered beasts that could have started out as chickens, but didn't end up that way. Their breasts were so outsized by breeding that their legs couldn't hold them.

Dewey's chickens aren't even the same species as those poor devils, I'd guess. They are genuinely happy little creatures who chirp and always seem happy to see me when I go over to vist. They cluster at the front of the pen, sticking their heads through the wire as if they want a pat on the head. I like them. My wife loves them. My grandkid can't wait to run next door when she comes by. The neighborhood kids drop by to see them, which delights Dewey and Sheila, both in their 70s.

Within the last week, the New Yorker and a marvelous little North Carolina magazine called Our State, have had long feature articles on urban chickens, pointing out that raising them has become trendy and it's been since maybe WWII that we've had chickens so close and in such numbers. Could be the move to local food, the economy, the realization that nature's getting away from us. Anyway, the trend is going the right way.

Most localities--Roanoke included--limit the number of chickens you can have at home to 10 (and most ban roosters for obvious reasons; you think a barking dog is annoying, try a rooster at 4:30 a.m.). But they seem to be catching on. And I don't mind it a bit.


  1. Aww Dewey and Sheila are the sweetest people in the world. I'm going to pass this along to a friend of mine in Salem who has backyard chickens. She gets a lot of grief from a neighbor who keeps calling the city on her. She could use a positive word or two like this.

  2. What a great piece!! We are Lisa's Salem friends who have chickens, and wish more people were open-minded like you! Dewey & Sheila sound pretty darn lucky. :)
    Backyard/urban chickens certainly are a growing movement, even Roanoke has noted more around (though they also note that more chickens aren't causing them any more troubles).
    When you start to think about where your food comes from, you really turn a page in life, and I don't think there is any going back. At least I hope there isn't!!