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Monday, March 30, 2009

 

Chicken Fest!

Let me tell you about a series of recurring dreams that I've been having. About chickens. No, seriously, chickens. Feel free to play armchair Freud and explain them to me if you're feeling up to the task.

The dreams started around five years ago and I have one every few months. I still remember the first of these, which I wrote about here on the blog. In it I had just purchased a house in McMinnville with a large coup and decided to consult a neighbor about the logistics of raising hens. After being chased off his property, I drove to a nightmarish Petco-type superstore devoted entirely to chickens.

The more recent of these dreams involve me building a chicken coop and being nagged by neighbors for eggs. The most recent dream consisted entirely of an argument with a friend over whether or not it would be safe to set up the coop under the large apple tree that dominates my front yard.

Where are these dreams coming from? Well, raising "urban chickens" has become a popular fad around Portland in recent years. There's a house near my place with chickens that escape every so often and can occasionally be found blocking traffic. I can think of no less than three households in the area with coops.




So I found myself talking about these dreams over dinner at Gustav's Pub last week and the discussion led to three of us killing part of an otherwise dull afternoon at Livingscape Nursery's "Chicken Fest!" last Saturday. If I were serious about buying an urban chicken or three what sort of financial and time investment would I be looking at? Also: what's the best name for a hen that lives in a hipster metropolis like Portland?

I was considering Clucky Brewster.

First up, a professionally-built coop with all the bells and whistles can run between $600 and $1,000 while a homemade coop can be constructed for as little as $60. Among the other things we learned at Chicken Fest:


  • Urban chickens require a significant amount of care and their enclosures need to be cleaned every few days.


  • Urban chickens can comfortably live in small spaces but in order to lead happy, healthy lives the more room, the merrier the hen.


  • Different-colored chickens produce different colored eggs.


  • Why are frozen cornish game hens so tiny? Because they come from tiny cornish game hens. It's a fact!


  • The average cosmopolitan hen can produce up to 360 eggs a year, just like her country counterparts.


  • There are almost as many chicken accessories out there as there are for dogs. Chicken combs, chicken vitamins and even a special spray to keep neighborhood predators from attacking the birds.


  • Unlike cats, it's considered kosher to eat a chicken when they start gettin' all fat and lazy.




  • 6-day old baby chicks? Adorable? 3-week old chicks? Not so adorable. They're the gawky, pimply-faced teens of the chicken world.


  • While I have plenty of space for a coop, the logistics of running one would prevent me from ever going through with this and I didn't do so hot when I helped a friend babysit some hens a few summers back. I've heard some nasty stories from a colleague who grew up on a farm with chickens (they're dirty, they peck everything to death, they poop all over the place, etc). My neighborhood is filled with cats, raccoons and Lewis & Clark undergrads. Plus, there's a state park three blocks from my door that's no doubt filled with plenty of bored coyotes that would love to get their paws on a chicken, especially a irony-lovin', Session Lager-swillin' hipster bird with a name like Clucky Brewster.

    Maybe I should get a pig instead.

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