A Chicken in Every Suburban Yard is the Goal


Penelope, our Rhode Island Red.

I had chickens years ago when we lived on a small farm. Since the day I got them they were easy to care for, simple to feed, friendly to my kids. They were so easy, that we let our small son have a couple of his own to show at fair in his 4H project. We got great-tasting, farm-fresh eggs from those chickens plus manure for the compost pile to boot. I was surprised and impressed with how much we got in return for such little investment.

We’ve been back in the San Francisco Bay Area now for about 12 years and I’ve finally convinced my husband that a small flock of backyard chickens would be just as good of an investment here as in they were on the farm. In fact, maybe even more so. In the country, you always had the opportunity to eat fresh eggs, that were antibiotic-free, cruelty-free and basically, well…free. In the suburbs, you have to pay a small fortune to get cage-free chicken eggs; and even then, who knows if that actually means what it implies.

Much to my youngest daughter’s delight, this past April we let her choose three baby chicks from the local feed store. The guy put the three little fluff balls into a box where they were nearly swallowed up by shavings. She clapped as we drove home, “It’s like we have a real farm!”

This particular child wasn’t born by a long-shot when we lived in the country, so she was in heaven to be the first kid in her class to own chickens. And it’s not like we have a real farm – we sort of do have a real farm. A micro-farm in the middle of suburbia. On one side of our house we have a rabbitry complete with 5 rabbits in large cages and now we’ve added the hens, Penelope, Darla, and Churro. Like good farmers, we have a couple of working compost piles and a vegetable garden going on there, as well. We affectionately call this part of our yard “the barnyard”.

I’m not sure what the neighbors call it, but I’m pretty sure that’s not the word their using.