Backyard chickens just latest craze
by Marguerite Cline, columnist
June 26, 2014 10:05 PM | 1693 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
My son, Joel, is a veterinarian who specializes in avian medicine. You might say he is a chicken doctor. Recently he was asked to speak at a meeting of small animal veterinarians. I thought that was unusual.

He explained that since many urban people now have backyard chickens, some small animal veterinarians are not just seeing dogs, cats, etc. People are bringing sick chickens, too.

In fact, a friend of mine was quite surprised when she took her dogs to their veterinarian. In the waiting room was a lady holding a hen wrapped in a blanket.

A website entitled “Chickens 101” explains that raising chickens is relatively easy, somewhat inexpensive and has several benefits. They eat insects, provide meat and eggs for the family and provide learning experiences for the children.

It did not include something I learned from my cousin, John Ed. According to him, if a chicken flew over your head it would cure chicken pox. Guess who had chicken pox at the time?

Like some of you, I grew up with backyard chickens. It was accepted and even expected that country people had them around their houses. We learned early to watch where we stepped.

Growing up in north Georgia, Norman Sosebee had a banty rooster that spent nights in a small tree near the house. He remembers during the winter it might have ice in its feathers. Occasionally, when a train came through town, it would uncouple one car and leave in on a sidetrack for a day or two. People would take their chickens there and sell them to the buyer onboard.

Norman decided he would take his banty. The buyer offered him 20 cents. Since Norman wanted 30, he kept his rooster.

Noel Powell grew up on a farm in the Midwest. His family had yard chickens. One was a rooster that went into attack mode whenever Noel came near.

When the family was away, Noel got his dad’s gun and found the rooster. In Dirty Harry “make my day” mode, Noel shot the rooster and buried it in a manure pile.

His dad missed the rooster. Noel did not want to lie to his dad so when he asked Noel if he had seen the rooster, he always said, “I have not seen him TODAY.”

Many of us have had unpleasant experiences with chickens’ cousins. Dick Edwards’ neighbors had pigeons. His mother was furious one Sunday after getting Dick spiffy for church. One of the pigeons flew over, leaving a deposit on Dick’s clean shirt.

Dick Miles, a retired chief in the U.S. Navy, tells about similar problems when personnel on his ship were on deck. Seagulls were the culprits.

That reminds Dee Miles, Dick’s wife, of a poem she heard a long time ago. “Birdy, birdy in the sky. Why’d you do that in my eye. I’m a big boy, I won’t cry, but I’m just glad that cows don’t fly.”

I was once a victim, too. My daughter Cindy reminded me of the day I was bombed by a bird flying overhead. She was with me at the beauty shop and had patiently sat through having my hair done. After the fly over, she was not patient while I had it done again.

While more people want chickens in their backyard, their neighbors may not. They list noise, health matters and declining property values as concerns. You might say there has been a lot of squawking going on.

Meetings of boards of homeowners associations, city councils and boards of commissioners are seeing angry people with pros and cons about backyard chickens.

In some cases, ordinances have passed allowing or denying them. Where they are allowed, there are conditions that must be met including the number of chickens they can have.

Cindy lives in Atlanta. She decided it would be good for the children, Bess and Ben, to have chickens. She got everything they would need.

Although none of the neighbors complained, it turned out not to be a good idea. So, she advertised on the neighborhood website that the chickens and all their paraphernalia were for sale. Quickly, a lady called and they made a deal.

Soon the same lady called Cindy again. She wanted to bring the chickens back. Cindy could keep the money but she wisely declined the offer.

The lady said she did not know chickens were messy. They were ruining her backyard.

My favorite chicken doctor says backyard chickens are today’s craze. Like emus and ostriches, eventually hobby growers will tire of them.

I think Joel is right. Like the lady who wanted to bring back the chickens she bought from Cindy, they will learn in a hurry that chickens are messy and can be a lot of trouble.

Perhaps that should be included in “Chickens 101.”

Marguerite Cline is former mayor of Waleska.

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