The cluck came out of nowhere.
I looked around. Other than Buzz, The Garbage Disposal That Walks Like A Dog, standing at attention with his entire body quivering in a barely held back need to chase, I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary.
Could be that I was starting to hear things. Again.1
Once more, the cluck, followed by a bunch of other clucks and what sounded like chickens, of all things, muttering and clucking and doing whatever it is that chickens do.
Which was, of course, crazy. I mean, I was walking the supposed dog through a relatively well-off suburb of Charlotte, NC, not the sticks. I wasn’t in farm country. Or even in Key West, for that matter, where they pride themselves on the feral roosters running around the town.
Surely I wasn’t hearing chickens.
Well, yes, yes I was.2
As I stood there, befuddled even more than normal, an actual rooster strutted out from behind a tree in the yard next to me, and began pecking at the ground around the base of the tree. I would have stood there and goggled at it for a while, but Buzz, The Eating Machine On Legs, had already taken off after the small, feathery thing that looked like such good chasing.
The leash hit the end of, well, its leash, and yanked me off balance. I fought Buzz to a truce. I stood relatively still, leaning against the pull of the leash, and he yipped and yapped and barked and stood up on his hind legs, dropped down, dug in and started trying to drag me closer to the chicken.
It wasn’t much of a truce, but I’d take what I could get.
The rooster, meanwhile, didn’t even look up from its pecking to see what all the noise was about. It was either very stupid or supremely confident. I’m leaning toward a combination of the two.
Eventually, I was able to drag Buzz far enough away that he could calm down a little. Just about then, the homeowner came out, saw the rooster and picked it up. I asked what the deal was and she told me she was raising chickens in her backyard. Mostly so the kids could get to know where breakfast came from.
I was astounded. Even more so when I went home and asked the internet, as one does, what was the deal with urban chickens.
Turns out, it’s more than a thing. It’s a big thing. And growing. There’s even an association of like-minded folks who banded together to create a website and give out tips and hints for keeping chickens in your backyard, instead of in your freezer.3
The site has articles on laws governing where you can raise chickens, how many you can keep, and other stuff like that. It’s also got information on how and if you should build a chicken coop, along with, of course, information on how to keep the little buggers alive and thriving in your yard.
I was telling one of my neighbors to keep an eye out for the crazy person down the road when she started looking at me funny.
“You do know we’re raising chickens in our back yard, right?”
Of course I did. I was just making a joke.
Turns out, they were keeping the chickens for their kids. In addition to the dog, a huge, lovable labradoodle named Gus, they wanted animals that were the opposite of lovable for their kids to get to know. And also they like the easy availability of fresh eggs. And, should anything go wrong, there was always the frying pan.
The more I think of it, maybe it isn’t so ba-
No. It’s still pretty silly. If you want your kids to know where their food comes from – other than the grocery store – there are farms you can go to. You don’t have to have a cage full of stinking, loud and obnoxious birds in the back yard.
I’ll probably hear from urban chicken people telling me I’m crazy, but I think I can live with that. It’s not like the birdbrains ever get to be angry birds, or anything.
Footnotes & Errata
1 “. . . the voices that control me from inside my head say I shouldn’t kill you yet.”
2 And stop calling me Shirley.
3 Where God intended them to be before we put them in the pan.