Until recently, my knowledge of chickens– live ones, at least– was very limited. When I thought of poultry egg production, my mind turned to clucking, gossipy hens who, upon hearing the seductive croon of an emaciated rooster resembling a young Frank Sinatra with feathers, fainted dead away on the small mountain of eggs that just poured out of their backsides as a result of their brief, moony-eyed rapture.
That is, until I met Sophia [above, left] and Zsu Zsu [above, right], two Barred Rock Hens who make their home with the Kriese family in Redwood City.
I’d read about these hens at Urban Chickens— a fascinating blog started by Thomas and Melanie Kriese that began as an online diary about the joys and challenges of raising baby chicks into egg-laying adulthood, but has since grown into a mouthpiece for a kind of nascient-though-growing Poultry Rights movement. Yes, if you are looking for the latest-breaking local and national poultry news, you can find it there.
My original fascination with the website stemmed from an article outlining the municipal codes of San Francisco pertaining to poultry raising. Yes, that means raising chickens within San Francisco city limits. Apparently, anyone with enough room to keep a chicken coop 20 feet away from any human dwelling’s door or window can keep up to four chickens (sorry, no roosters) as pets! Somehow, I found this news very cheering.
Imagine waking up to find fresh eggs delivered a mere 20 feet from your back door every morning by animals who have imprinted more deeply upon you than your children ever will. Just please don’t expect miracles– hens lay on average once every 26 hours, which would give you…you’ll have to do the math yourself. If that is beyond you, you have no business caring for chickens since you most likely have enough difficulty just getting dressed in the morning.
[Above: Sophia’s very first egg is on the left, her latest, on the right.]
Fresh eggs. Not farm-fresh, mind you. Fresher than that. Fresh from the business ends of your pets.
Pets that like you so much, they provide you with food. Yes, cats will occasionally offer you a small dead bird or lizard, but only a loving chicken can provide you with the consistent means to create marvelous omelets.
And if I had a dog, I’d be looking at him with deep disappointment right about now, too.
Not only do chickens-as-pets provide eggs, they gladly lend themselves to weeding and pest control. And the supply of fertilizer is nearly endless.
Chickens, it would seem, are good for the environment.
After the Krieses kindly allowed me to spend time with their docile, kid-friendly hens, they sent me off with a few eggs from their personal stash, wrapping the very-latest egg separately, so that I might distinguish it from the rest. I was eager to crack it open and have at it.
Upon return to my friend Squid‘s house, I cracked open a beer, and then proceeded to do the same with the freshest egg in my acquaintance.
There was very little I wished to do other than eat it. But how? A light scramble, with just a little butter in the pan and a slight sprinkling of sea salt when it hit the plate. I cooked up a store-bought (though still organic) egg exactly the same way and compared the two. Everything about the ür-fresh egg was richer– the color of the yolk, the flavor, and the feel on the tongue. The store-bought egg was still good, but, you know where I am going with this, surely.
The thought of returning to my tiny, chicken-free apartment suddenly depressed me a little. Then I took another swig of beer, another bite of scrambled egg, and moved on.
If you think you might be eligible to keep some urban chickens of you very own, or just want to read about people who do, visit myurbanchickens.blogspot.com.
To purchase an Eglu, which is basically a Barbie Dream home for chickens, visit: