Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chickens in My Backyard?

The City of New Haven recently passed an ordinance that allows residents to keep chickens in the backyard. Debate was contentious. The final ordinance is very strict — up to six hens (no roosters), with many requirements and restrictions covering the size of chicken coops, their placement, and their distance from residences and property lines.

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life (P.S.)I had recently read Barbara Kingsolver’s  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. When I heard this news, I thought dreamily about the prospect of chickens in the backyard. But then I considered the reality of my particular yard.

My yard might not look like Wild Kingdom, but over the years it has been the host site for lots of visitors. The usual city rodents. And the raccoon in the tree who startled me one “trash night,” as he leered at me just inches away when I reached up to fill the bird feeder.

And birds of many varieties. One autumn a flock of cedar waxwings descended on our hawthorn and spent an entire day devouring every last berry. Marsh hawks have lit in the spruce tree and bloody pigeon remains have been strewn over the grass more than once. Down the row a wild turkey paid a visit.

We have had luna moths and migrating monarchs. And then there was the April when we put the fat cocoon plucked from a culled dead limb into a jar with holes in the lid. When a female gypsy moth emerged secreting her pheromones, scores of male moths flocked to the jar, hovering outside it until they dropped dead. The female disappeared into a gross cloud of eggs until she, too, expired. I wonder how many trees this action spared.

But nothing can top the day the hot May day in 2007 when the opossum showed up at the bird bath. After a long drink it decided to wander — around the property, from the back to the front, up the brownstone steps and down, back to the yard, up the fire escape, until finally it meandered next door and beyond, never to be seen again. Animal Control assured me it was most likely a thirsty, pregnant, female.

Now that I think about it, this yard is too wild and woolly a place for a flock of hens. Fresh eggs on the premises will have to remain a fantasy.

Did I mention that my yard is less than 30’ x  30’ and convenient to the highway? Guess that rules out a goat, too.

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