While our La Mesa brethren continue the battle to legalize chickens in their city, more and more San Diegans are nesting down with the birds in a symbiotic relationship that results in tasty fresh eggs for the owners and a nice warm roost for the hens.
One of my favorite chicken lovers is Allie Casarda Snover. She runs The Chicks of North Park Facebook page and, from recipes to recommendations on chicken books, she chronicles the lives of her six hens with a nice mix of humor and help for those who either own chickens or are thinking about getting some feathery friends in the future.
All of Snover's chicks, by the way, are named after streets in North Park (Florida, Myrtle, Morley, etc.), save for one Cochin breed of chicken who's named Claire de Lune after the North Park coffee shop.
I emailed Snover and asked her about her experience as an urban backyard chicken farmer:---
Kinsee Morlan: What made you want to take on the task of becoming a chicken owner?
Allie Casarda Snover: My Grandma had chickens when I was growing up and I remember how much she enjoyed them and the fun we had going out to collect the morning eggs. It's a great time to start a backyard flock. There is a nice variety of approachable books, magazines and websites with how-tos, FAQs and even floor plans for how to make your own chicken coop.
This information was really helpful with a consistent theme of how chickens are easy going, fun and actually great pets! After the initial research I contacted several hatcheries and requested catalogs. Several offered
customers the option to order smaller quantities; one was as few as three chicks. These catalogs went into more detail on the demeanor of different breeds, suggestions on the type that are most hardy and good for first time ‘farmers.' It also gave info on what type of eggs they lay (color) as well as frequency.
KM: Tell me about some of the challenges.
AS: One challenge was when you order baby chicks the hatcheries do their best at guessing the sex of the baby chick. We ordered seven hens, but got six—one was a rooster. I was in denial for a while, but eventually he got bigger and bigger compared to the others and then started crowing (six weeks old). We were lucky that he was a very mild “Roo”, but did need to eventually relocate him to a farm due to roosters not being zoned in our neighborhood. I was really sad because I had gotten attached to him and still miss him.
KM: Tell me about some of the pleasant surprises.
AS: It's been a nice surprise how how many folks really have good memories of when they have also had chickens in their life in one form or another. Many folks have their own special stories, like, when they would visit grandparents or, one neighbor was reminded of the time he studied in Nepal and it reminded him of the mornings where he would hear the roosters crowing and bell's ringing down in the village. Another surprise is how many adults are really certain that hens need a rooster in order to lay eggs. We just remind them that is true to get chicks, but no rooster needs to be present in order to get eggs.
KM: It is legal in your ‘hood to have chickens, right? What do you think about the chicken regulations in these parts?
AS: Yes, chickens are legal in my ‘hood. There are several rules to keep in mind regarding the size of the lot, location of coop in relation to your neighbor's homes and the max number of your flock. I was really happy to get the “green light” for this plan! I can see why folks are very disappointed who want to have a small backyard flock and told they cannot. The positives really do outweigh any perceived negatives. My chickens have improved my yard! They curtail insects, improve my mood after anytime I visit with them and enrich my composter's contents!
I also feel like I'm not completely wasting water in my yard. As I rinse out and refill their water holders, I rotate around the yard at different plants or trees. The water is serving two purposes, it goes into their container or the rinse water goes to feed plants. Another great outcome is, our pets make us breakfast—how many folks can say that?